Paul Dean’s Lectures: the ninth lecture

This is the ninth 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.

LECTURE IX.


PROOFS OF THE FINAL RESTORATION.

ST. MATTHEW V. 44, 45.

“BUT I SAY UNTO YOU, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, BLESS THEM THAT CURSE YOU, DO GOOD TO THEM THAT HATE YOU, AND PRAY FOR THEM THAT DESPITEFULLY USE YOU, AND PERSECUTE YOU; THAT YE MAY BE THE CHILDREN OF YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN; FOR HE MAKETH HIS SUN TO RISE ON THE EVIL AND ON THE GOOD, AND SENDETH HIS RAIN ON THE JUST AND ON THE UNJUST.”

The morality of the Jews, as well as that of Gentiles, was extremely defective. It was so framed by its teachers, as to be selfish and partial in its operation, it placed a part of the human race [156] beyond the sympathies and services of the rest of mankind; it allowed of causeless anger, contempt and lust, provided they did not break out into overt acts; it weakened the filial respect due from children to parents; and it failed properly to unite piety and virtue, — love to God, and love to man, as essential and correlative branches of true religion.

The basis of christian morality is supreme love to God, and universal benevolence to mankind; for the gospel which reveals the greatness of God’s love to the world, also enjoins upon every creature the most profound reverence and love for the Deity, and the most sincere good will to each other. These principles carried out into actions, produce a cheerful and conscientious performance of all such acts and services as express reverence, trust, love and gratitude to the Most High; and also all such acts of justice, truth, and mercy, as express sympathy, fellow feeling, and good will to men. Therefore the same revelation, which teaches the destiny that God has, in his great love, purposed for us his rational creatures, contains also all those precepts, by obedience to which, we may express our piety and benevolence, and be prepared to enjoy the condition he has assigned us; and hence the scriptures are the only standard of christian faith, and the only perfect manual of moral duty.

[157] The precepts of morality, touching the duty of man to man, found in the gospel, are the divine will in regard to our conduct towards ourselves and fellow creatures. And morality, thus understood, is a part, yea an important part of religion; and it also makes a part of the perfect moral government of God, which extends over all intelligent beings, whether angelic or human, and whether living in this or a future world. Hence, as the purposes and government of the Supreme Ruler of Heaven and Earth extend over this and a future state, it must be plain that christian morals will in principle, be the same in a future state, as they are in this state, and equally necessary to the future as they are to the present happiness of men and angels.

For if God be unchangeable, and the nature and purposes of his moral dominion be immutable — if the nature of man, and of human felicity, be the same in all worlds: then if God requires his children to love each other here, he will always require them to do so; and if it be right for christians to respect justice, mercy and truth, in their feelings and conduct towards each other and the world now, it will never cease to be right for them to continue so doing. This view of morality renders it truly sacred, adds much to its authority and importance, and should awaken us to a lively sense of the vast interest we have in gaining a [158] correct understanding of it for ourselves, and of the high obligations which rest upon us to aid its universal diffusion through the earth.

Now as the character and designs of an earthly law-giver are known by the character and tendency of the laws he enacts; as the wisdom and virtue of a father are plainly inferrable from the wise and salutary rules of moral conduct which he prescribes for the government of his children; so the benevolence of God, and his purpose to make the intelligent universe ultimately holy and happy, are proved by the tendency of the moral precepts of the bible to effect that most desirable object.

Thus we “make the tree good and its fruit good,” which is of all others the most satisfactory method of arriving at truth. For who can reasonably doubt the patriotism of that legislator, all of whose acts tend to the promotion of the public good? Then who can doubt the design of the Ruler of the Universe to effect the restoration of all his erring children, when all his moral prohibitions and requirements tend to reform, and thus to restore the whole sinful world to the performance of their duty, and to the enjoyment of perfect happiness, through the mediation of his blessed son, and by the ministry of his word and spirit?

This sentiment we shall now attempt to sustain, by an inquiry into what is prohibited, and what is enjoined by christian morality; and by showing [159] that both the prohibitions and injunctions of the word of God tend to produce and perpetuate universal happiness.

First then, the Almighty Guardian of the human race, who is also the avenger of their wrongs, has solemnly prohibited the doing of the least injury or wrong to any one of our fellow creatures in their persons, their properties, or their reputations; the uttering of falsehood one to another, or the rendering of evil for evil to any. All fraud, prevarication, revenge, injustice and violence, are most peremptorily forbidden, by the scriptures. Rom. xiii. 7, 8. Eph. iv. 25. 2. Cor. viii. 21. Not only are all injurious actions prohibited, but we are commanded not to be angry with a brother without cause; not to speak evil of any man; not to raise evil reports ourselves against a neighbor, or spread them when raised by others. Matt, v. 21, 22. Titus iii. 2. But when angry with sufficient cause, we are not to retain it, lest it degenerate into malice; therefore “let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is the solemn injunction of the Apostle.

We are forbidden to pass rash judgments upon others, lest we should be judged of God; and even to “think evil” of them, is a violation of christian duty. We may indeed be compelled to see or know evil, but we are never to surmise or think it of any, without proof.

[160] What a protection is here guaranteed to every son and daughter of Adam against evil actions, words, passions, and designs! by him who condescends to make their cause his own, and proclaims “vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Second. Nor is christian morality merely negative; it enforces in the most explicit terms, the duty of doing good to all men, as far as we have ability and opportunity— to assist them in their necessities and distresses, to sympathise with them in afflictions and sorrows, and to be ready to distribute of our worldly substance, and earnings to their relief and comfort; to endeavor to convert them from the error of their way, and to reprove their faults in the spirit of kindness and meekness; and always and by all means to do all in our power to promote their temporal and spiritual welfare. Gal. vi. 10. 1. Tim. vi. 18. Heb. xiii. 3, 16. James v. 20. Gal. vi. 1. Rom. xii. 15.

By far the most difficult part of our duty towards mankind, is that which relates to enemies, slanderers, and persecuters; to these we are enjoined the exercise of a mild and forgiving temper, and not to be overcome of evil but to overcome evil with good. And not this merely; but to love enemies, and to pray for slanderers and persecuters, that they may see the evil of their way, and turn to the path of duty, is required by Christ and his apostles, as things which should distinguish their [161] followers. Matt. v. 44. Rom. xii. 17, 21. 1. Thes. v. 15. 1. Pet. iii. 9.

From these general precepts, it is most manifest that the gospel founds the duties of mankind to each other on love; and that it is the great and constant object to recommend and enforce the practice of universal benevolence, without which there can be no perfect morality, and no true religion.

Besides the general precepts prescribing the duties of justice and benevolence to the whole race of man, the gospel abounds in particular injunctions to those who occupy the several stations and relations of civil and social life, which are of the highest importance to nations, families, and individuals. It requires rulers to be the just, vigilant, and impartial protectors of their people; and the people to be submissive and obedient to their rulers, praying for their prosperity in righteousness, and rendering them all due support. It requires parents to protect, instruct, govern, and train up their children for usefulness and happiness; and children to respect and obey their parents. It instructs masters to be kind to their servants, remembering that they also have a master in heaven; and servants are required to be faithful, rendering service as to the Lord. Husbands are instructed to love, cherish, protect, and support their wives; and wives directed to love, respect, and promote the happiness of their husbands, and the order of their [162] families; that by their united examples, prayers, and efforts, their children maybe holy to the Lord. Likewise, superiors and inferiors, the elder and the younger, the rich and the poor, are directed to a proper course of conduct towards each other; and precepts are given to regulate the deportment of equals among themselves, instructing them to be courteous, in honor preferring one another, not willingly giving offence to any, and endeavoring as far as possible to live peaceably with all men. St. Matt. xxii. 21. Rom. xiii. 1, 2. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. Tit. iii. 1. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 15. Eph. vi. 5,9, Col. iii. 22, 25, iv. 1. 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. Tit. ii. 2, 9, 10, 11. Eph. v. 22, 33. Col. iii. 18, 19. Tit. ii. 4, 5. 1 Pet. iii. 8. Rom. xii. 10, 11, 18. 1. Cor. x. 32. Phil. ii. 3. 1 Pet. ii. 17, iii. 8, 5.

In regard to those duties which relate more particularly to ourselves, christianity imposes upon its followers the habitual exercise of meekness, sobriety, temperance, chastity; with humility, cheerfulness, thanksgiving — to maintain a due degree of self respect, to assert their mental, moral, and social natures; and thus to arrive at perfection. Eph. iv. 26, 27, 31, 32. Col. iii. 12, 14. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Eph. v. 20. Eph. iv. 1. 1 Tim. iv. 12. Phil. iv. 4. Acts xxii. 25. Eph. iv. 13.

Such are briefly the outlines of the morality of the gospel; a morality admirably suited to the [163] condition and character of human nature as it developes itself in society ; and which is perfectly congenial with the pure and sacred doctrines of revelation, as flowing with them from the same fountain of wisdom and goodness, and designed to aid the accomplishment of the same high and holy purposes; which brings us,

Thirdly. To inquire into its tendency. Does it not manifestly conduce to moral and personal happiness, by regulating the temper, passions and affections, furnishing the mind with those noble sentiments of justice, benevolence, and charity, which inspire it with inward peace, and heavenly joy; and also by securing the body from injury, disease, and suffering, through unnecessary exposure and excess? Does it not promote social happiness, by prohibiting whatever could break the peace or embitter the relations of society; and by also exciting all those dispositions of heart, and friendly offices of life, which render the intercourse of its members most useful and happy? Does it not afford a most pleasing view of human nature, as being allied to one Supreme Father, and as a band of brothers, under mutual obligations of love and good will to each other? And in what a heavenly light does it present the Mighty Ruler of heaven and earth, as a father in the midst of his vast family, giving them such wise, just, and salutary directions, in regard to their conduct towards one [164] another, as tends to produce among all its members the most perfect intelligence, safety, harmony, and happiness?

Therefore we conclude that the morality of the gospel tends to promote and perfect the welfare, not of a part of mankind only, but of the whole human race. The promised rewards to obedience, and all experience as far as experience extends, unite to confirm us in this conclusion. So far as men have departed from this course of moral conduct, they have been scourged with personal and social calamity; sickness, grief, discontent, contention, and war, have kept pace with the departure. To such degree as it has been reduced to practice by nations and communities, those nations and communities have been united, intelligent, prosperous, and happy. If there have been exceptions to this rule, those exceptions have been the effect of predominant vice in others, and not of any defect in the rule itself.

Having shown that God has prohibited the exercise of all such principles, and the performance of all such acts, as tend to produce misery; is it not, therefore most evident that he did not create men for the purpose of making them, or allowing them to be made miserble, by themselves or others, as the object of their creation? And if, as will not be denied, he has commanded them, and all of them to cultivate and exercise all such tempers [165] feelings, and virtues, as make men happy; then, does it not also follow that he created them all for happiness, as their final destination? Can there be any doubt on this subject? Is there any doubt whether the morality of Christianity tends to the universal peace and well being of mankind? Let us suppose all men to be perfect in the practice of all the moral precepts of the gospel; and then would they not all be happy? Most certainly this must be admitted. Then, if God has required all men to do what will make them happy, does he not will that they should be happy?

Again, if the precepts and doctrines of Christianity came from the same source, partake of the same spirit, and harmonise as do the tree and fruit; then as the precepts tend to make the whole human race happy, must it not also follow, that all the doctrines of the gospel have the same gracious tendency? Were it true that obedience to the doctrines and precepts of religion, conduced to human misery; then we should rationally think that its Divine Author purposed the misery of mankind. But as the reverse is so manifestly true, we are constrained to believe that God ever has, does, and ever will purpose the final and universal salvation of his rational creatures.

Should it be admitted that the excellent morality of the bible leads to happiness in the same sphere in which it is obeyed; but at the same [166] time, be objected that it can only make men happy through their obedience to its injunctions, we answer, this is admitting all we ask; as it affords the two following inferences,

1. That God wills that all should obey, and 2, that those who obey should be happy. If therefore the Divine Author of this scheme of morality purposes it as the rule of conduct to be submitted to by the world; will he not employ effectual means to accomplish this purpose, by inducing an universal obedience?

Let us now, my friends, consider briefly some of those circumstances which encourage the belief that the excellent principles of moral conduct and feeling, enjoined by the New Testament will, sooner or later, be observed by the fulness of mankind. The first circumstance to which your attention is invited is this, viz. that the capacity of obedience, (being an inherent capacity in the soul, not proceeding from the present mode of our being, nor any future mode that may be given us,) will always accompany us, not only in this but a future state. To maintain the contrary, would be to deny that the soul will always in all worlds possess the power of loving its Maker and fellow creatures; which would be making it an unfit subject for moral government, incapable alike of being morally happy or miserable.

[167] 2. There never will come a period when God will not require of every soul obedience to the Gospel in thought, feeling, and all such exercises as the mode of its existence renders contributary to the honor of God, and to happiness of men: and therefore all his administrations towards men in every possible condition, must, either directly or indirectly, tend to effect in them those exercises and sentiments.

3. This code of pure and holy morals, is so connected with the heavenly doctrines of revelation as the fruit is with the tree that produces it; and consequently, as the doctrines of the gospel furnish the motives to their practice, if the fruit be not good it will prove the tree is not good.

4. The moral precepts of the gospel are expressed in the clearest manner, and without the least ambiguity, describing not not only what we are to do, and what we are not to do, and to whom, but setting forth in the plainest manner the principles, feelings, and motives, which are at all times to influence us.

So that he who desires to know his duty, and studies the scriptures for that purpose, cannot fail of learning it; and not only this, but the ministers of Christ are directed to enforce it upon all people in all the world, and all parents required to impress a sense of it upon the tender minds of their children. To all which are added the pe-[168]culiar force of the most illustrious examples of Jesus, his apostles, and of early christians.

5. The principles of responsibility to a Father in heaven, who has all knowledge and all power, are made perfectly plain; not being restrained to the present state, but extended to a future. So that on the one hand there is no danger of loosing our reward for well doing however long it may be deferred, nor on the other, any possibility of escaping the just punishment of evil doing, though it be not speedily executed, except by a sincere and hearty repentance followed by a genuine reformation.

6. The doctrine of rewards and punishments, connected with christian morality, and designed to act as motives to its obedience,are such as naturally excite our hopes and awaken our fears. The things promised are what we naturally most desire, and the evils threatened are those to which we have the most natural aversion. They are most reasonable, being just and salutary, according to our works, and the motives by which we are influenced therein.

7. We have now and always shall have the greatest interest in believing the doctrines, and conforming to the precepts of Christianity. This interest cannot be affected by death; for our happiness will depend on faith and reconciliation to God, in a future state, as much as it does in the present.

[169] And this interest will be made more and more apparent to us by the enlightning influences of the Holy Spirit which God will pour out upon all flesh, and also by our own experience, which will never cease to teach us that holiness of heart is necessary to our happiness.

Now, if men will never cease to have the power to render obedience; if God will never cease to require it; if it be the natural effects of the doctrines of the gospel, as good fruit is the effect of a good tree; if the duty of it be so plainly expressed as that all may easily know it; if all men are now and ever will be responsible to God who sees the heart; if the punishments as well as the rewards of the gospel tend to subdue and bring to obedience; if man shall never cease to have an interest in conforming to the requirements of the gospel in regard to faith and practice, and if a thorough consciousness of that interest must and will be impressed on the heart of every man by the spirit of God, and by his own experience; what, we respectfully ask, can prevent every creature from rendering a perfect obedience to those doctrines and precepts which are essential to their happiness, the desire of which is the strongest desire of their natures? Can they be forever deceived in so plain a matter; or continue forever knowingly, to sacrifice their own eternal happiness?

[170] Further, the scriptures appeal to our sense of propriety and self respect, saying, “walk worthy of your holy calling;” to our sense of justice and humanity, “do unto others as you would that they should do unto you;” to the sense of pure gratitude to our blessed Lord, who said, “love one another as I have loved you,” and “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth;” and to the highest principle of emulation of which the soul is capable, requiring us to imitate our heavenly Father, which is at once our glory and happiness, saying “love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain upon the just and upon the unjust.”

By all these and other motives does the gospel persuade us to flee from the wrath to come and the punishment of the disobedient, and seek to encourage us to gain the reward of the righteous, with the final plaudit of our judge at the last day, of “well done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”

And He who instituted and employs these means, the merits and grace of his son Jesus Christ, and the. influences of his holy and quickening spirit, to effect the obedience of the world, has assured us [171] of their success, saying “my people shall be willing in the day of my power;” so “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, (angels and men who have died in faith) and things in earth, (all men living in the millenium) and things under the earth, (all who shall have died in unbelief); and that every tongue shall confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father;” living “according to God in the spirit.” Psa. 110, 3. Phil. ii. 9, 10. 1 Pet. iv. 6. Have we not now shown that the christian scheme of moral sentiments and conduct is founded on God’s unlimited benevolence towards the human race, and conduces to universal happiness? Have we not also answered the objection, that all will not yield obedience to these beneficent requirements, and therefore, will not be benefitted by them; by showing that the motives to this obedience will and must ultimately prevail, and a universe be made to share in its benefits? and is it not therefore true that the morality of the gospel, while it justly endears itself to every reasonable and benevolent mind by its benign influence upon individuals and society, is a most practical and powerful witness in favor of the universal restoration?

I now close by saying, “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;” for he that practices the precepts of revealed religion, honors its doc-[172]trines, and adorns the christian profession, promotes his own best interest, advances the salvation of the world, and contributes to the praise and glory of God; wherefore I pray that heaven will abundantly strengthen you unto every good word and work to do his will.

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