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SERIES OF STRICTURES
ON THE SUBJECT OF
FUTURE AND ENDLESS
BEING THE SUBSTANCE OF THE ARGUMENTS USED IN A
HELD AT INDIANAPOLIS, JAN. 21, 1830, ON THAT SUBJECT,
THE REV. E. RAY AND THE PUBLISHER.
TO WHICH IS ADDED
A REPLY TO DR. ADAM CLARK'S NOTES
ON THE PHRASE
TOGETHER WITH AN
ON "THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN;",
EXPLANATORY OF THE ORIGINAL WORDS, RENDERED
Taken from the critical remarks of some of the most celebrated
and Endless Punishment.
BY J. KIDWELL.
PRINTED BY S. TIZZARD, AT THE SENTINEL AND STAR.OFFICE
AN ÉPISTLE TO THE READER.
IN presenting a book to the public, it is always expected by the reader that the writer of the work, by way of preface, should give some explanation, at least, of the reasons and motives which induced him to tax the public with a new bookespecially as the world is already so filled with books written on questions of theology, that one might conclude nothing new or interesting could be said on a subject so repeatedly brought under discussion. A brief history of the life of the author, with the simple relation of the facts which led to the debate, the substance of which is given in the following pages, is the best apology the writer can offer the public for troubling them with the present little work.
I was born of poor, but pious and respectable, parents, who were educated in the faith of the high Church of England, but became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church' when I was very young. Owing to the small fortune of my father, and the circumstance of his being one of the early settlers of the state of Kentucky, he was not able to give his children even a tolerable education: however, with much pious care and fatherly attention, we were instructed in that system of faith embraced by our parents. As they were firm and unwavering believers in the doctrine of future and endless punishment, like many other pious but mistaken christians, they seemed to think it the most effectual way to influence their children to love and fear God by representing him as filled with wrath and hatred towards sinners, and impressing upon their young and tender minds the awful idea of a dreadful place of future and endless punishment, where bad children were sure to go after death. Under the influence of this gloomy and horrid doctrine, I received my early impres
sions of God, of religion, and of a future state, which gave a decided tone to my first appearance on the stage of public life. I became much concerned about à future state, when quite young; without ever being taught to regulate my conduct from rational motives, or to observe that inseparable connection between vice and punishment, and virtue and happiness in this life.
I experienced what the world calls religion, when only eighteen years old; and from my earnest desire to save precious souls from that awful place called hell, I joined the methodist church, and commenced preaching, with not more than three month's schooling, and entirely ignorant of the world-unacquainted with books and men. I was very zealous in the ministry, but my zeal was not according to knowledge. I continued to preach in the methodist connexion for more than seven years, without ever once entertaining the slightest doubt of the truth of the common notion of future and endless punishment. Had it not been for one trait in my character, it is more than probable I should have remained under the influence of those ideas of superstition and terror unto the day of my death, as thousands have done. But in a very early period of my ministry I became disgusted with that mimical mode of preaching so customary among young methodist preachers. Being thus disgusted at hearing a score of sermons manufactured out of one of Mr. Wesley's printed sermons, although I did then, and yet do hold that great and good man in high veneration, I was careful not to borrow sermons from him, or any other man; but studied to have something of originality in my ministry. It was this peculiar turn of mind that at length served me as a key to unlock the door of superstition and show me the dreadful absurdity of all my former declamations. The first doubt I entertained of the correctness of the doctrine of future and endless punishment was produced by one of my own sermons. I had taken for my text the 15th verse of the 21st chapter of Job"What is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?" In addressing my congregation from this text, I pursued the following naturai division of my subject: 1st. I endeavoured to answer the interrogatory, "What is the Almighty that we should serve him?" and 2d, To show the benefits resulting from praying to the Almighty. As I always aimed to be as philosophical in my remarks as my limited information would admit, under my first general proposition I informed my hearers that there
were certain incommunicable attributes which all, who believ ed in a God, ascribed to Jehovah, and which constituted him a proper object of worship, and in consideration of which we were only bound to "serve him." In order to bring my remarks into the limit of three hours, which was as long as I generally preached, I informed my audience that for the sake of brevity, I should reduce those divine attributes of Deity into three general ideas: 1st, infinite wisdom; 2d, almighty power; and 3d, supreme goodness. In treating on the wisdom of God, I observed, if God was infinite in wisdom, which all admitted to be the case, when he was establishing and setting in order the laws of nature by which all beings and things were to be brought into existence,and under the direction and influence of which their future destiny was to be determined, he foresaw, upon the thread of contingencies, all possible laws of existence and all events which could or would attach themselves to the long concatenation of causes and effects, in the chain of universal existence, from the first exertion of almighty power to the most remote and distant event which could or would result from that order of things which he was about to establish. After taking this sudden flight of imagination through infinite space, and an unbounded eternity, I observed secondly, As God was almighty in power, his almighty power stood ready to execute any plan which infinite wisdom could devise; whatever possible scheme of existence, character of beings, states, or conditions which could present themselves to the eye of infinite wisdom, although variegated ad infinitum, were equally subject to be brought into operation and positive existence by the word of almighty power. In the third subdivision of my first general proposition, I informed my hearers that notwithstanding infinite wisdom could devise, and almighty power could effect any possible scheme of existence, supreme goodness must be consulted before any plan devised by infinite wisdom could be executed by almighty power--that it was necessary all the divine perfections and attributes of Deity should harmonize in all his works. Hence, no scheme of existence had ever been brought into effect without the approbation of all the divine perfections of Deity; and whatever may be the present appearance of things, or whatever new forms they may assume, we may rest assured that the present system of the universe, in which our species forms such an important link in the chain of existing beings, is the best possible system infinite wisdom could devise, or almighty power effect; and had we the eye of omniscience to take a