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THE VERSE-A-DAY SYSTEM THE HIGH ROAD TO HERESY.
MUCH is now said and done in hehalf of the Bible. As Paul once said concerning some who preached Christ in pretence, so say we in reference to all these enterprizes in honor of the Bible. Whether in sincerity or pretence the Bible is extolled, its excellency set forth, and the reading and memorizing of it commended, we rejoice, and will rejoice, that it is so far honored even by them who will not sub. mit to be governed by it alone,
The "verse-a-day" system, or the daily committing a period of the scriptures to memory, has of late been much extolled. It is a very dangerous course. This was one principal cause of my ruin. My father, from my earliest recollections, imposed this task upon me; and not upon me only, but made it a part of his domestic economy. All his children and domestics were, by a law like that of the Medes and Persians, compelled daily to commit one complete period, whether one or more verses, and to repeat it every evening when the family assembled for worship.
Emulation sometimes led us to commit a chapter per day. I have heard whole epistles repeated off in an evening, each one repeating in turn a chapter, until some of the longest were thus recited. The consequence was, his children became heretical, and were ruined. We lost all relish for creeds, for fashionable sermons, and for all the ceremony belonging to sectarianism. We became sceptics in every thing sectarian-in every thing in religion--but the Bible. We doubted of every thing that had not a “thus saith the Lord” for it,
When I had completed what is usually called an education, or after some fifteen or sixteen years' schooling, and had counted 21 years, I was good for nothing. The Bible had spoiled me. I could not be a lawyer; for, as I then viewed that profession, it was not favorable to avoiding "every appearance of evil.” I could not be a Doctor, bccause I then thought that men's souls needed more medicine than their bodies, and that to have souls for patients was better than to have bodies for cure. But worse than all, after trying it for a while, I could not be a Clergyman in its proper import, because I saw that Clergymen generally were ministers of a creed and of a party, and that I must either harden my heart and sear my conscience, or abandon that honorable calling.
Again, if I taught nothing but the Bible, I foresaw that I must starve. I was driven to the alternative of seeking some other way of getting my bread and meat, and of preaching the Bible without money or price. But not only was my living just snatched from my teeth, but my reputation was blasted in a monient! I was bögone!" “ruin. ed!" "a confirmed heretic!" in the estimation of my religious ac. quaintance. Thus the "verse-a-day" system proved my ruin.
Charity compels me to give this timely notice, and to relate so much of my experience as pertains to this projeci, now that the religious periodicals are so highly recommending it to the young. Having VOL, III.
seen and experienced the consequences of this course, I can speak with all assurance, and must inform the eulogists of this scheme that it will, in the clerical import of the term, ruin the youth of tbis generation. Let all who wish for the wealth or fame of this religious world, beware of the serse-a-day” system!
QUERIES, From Baltimore and Richmond, touching Universalism. 1. MUST I study Paley, Beattie, Hume, Kaimes, and Comb,on the philosophy of the human constitution, mental and physical; must | be a moral philosopher, a master of Locke, Reid, Brown, and Stuart; must I read all the decisions of ecclesiastical councils, the creeds of all sects and the historians of the church, before I can judge of the truth of a system of religion, before I can decide which merits my approbation, and what I ought to do to be saved ?
Answer. Before you are competent to decide where doctor's disa. gree, you must be wiser than they. You must read all the systems of moral philosophy and religion in the world, ancient and modern, before you can decide on the claims of the Calvinistic or Arminian creed: for in them are found propositions which involve all the diseussions of two thousand years. I am not sure but that you ought to read Confucius, Zoroaster, Mahomet, Aristotle, and Plato, betore you can safely decide on every proposition in these creeds. But if you want to know what you must believe and do in order to be saved, one vo. lume is sufficient; nay, the book of the Acts of the Apostles fully settles this matter.
2. I am at a loss to know what is meant by the word Satan, since I heard a Universalist preach--What is the meaning of that word?
Answer. We once thought that the word Satun and the word devil denoted that evil agent which dereived our race, and has opposed our happiness ever since the seduction of Eve. But certain wise and benevolent men have of late discovered, by the means of some great. ly improved telescopes, that the word Satan represents a fictitious, not a real person, and is, indeed, a mere personification of the evil nature of man. There is, therefore, no such being in existence, but like the Centaur, the Hydra, the Sphinx, the Polyphemus, it is a creature of imagination!! It is of use to affright some folks who are not philosophers, as are the tales about ghosts and witches told to children to keep them quiet. But these men of universal genius and lofty philosophical minds, regard the whole matter as an innocent fraud; or a bold metaphor, used by the sacred writers in those dark corners of the earth where they lived and labored, finding it well adapted to alarm the ignorant and depraved.
3. I have read a long disquisition on the word "damnation," and the phrase "shall be damned," in the Cincinnati “Sentinel," and I would be glad to have your definition of it. What does the term dama nation mean?
Answer. Condemnation. “He that believeth not shall be condemned," is the new version of it. But I see from the pieces alluded to, by the aid of these immensely powerful telescopes it only means doomed to "a state of ignorance, sin and blindness, without any future punishment.” He that believeth not shall be (whereas he is now free and intelligent) doomed to a state of ignorance and sin in this present life, but after death will be just as happy as he that believeth and is baptized: so that the true version of the whole passage is, "He that believeth and is immersed shall be saved just now, and he that believeth not shall be saved at last. According to the new system of grammar which these philanthropists have introduced, "shall be” and "is now” are perfect equivalents. “Shall be condenaned” is no threat of future punishment: for they are now condemned; and as the fu. ture means the present, so the present means the future and there. fore, those that shall be condemned are now condemned, and those that are saved shall be saved in no other sense than that in which they are now saved.
4. What is the meaning of the word Hell?
Answer. See Notes on Matth. v. new translation. But it has been discovered by these philosophers to have no metaphorical nor literal meaning as respects future punishment. Gehenna is burned out: and as there is now no literal hell, or Tophet, or Valley of Hinnom in this world, so there is nothing like it in the future. The only place now metaphorically called hell, is the heart of a sinner; and this admits but one person. It is, also, only temporal. So soon as the heart turns to dust, the sinner escapes out of his individual hell, and is at once in Abraham's bosom. Elysium, Tartarus, Purgatory, and future punishment, are all of the same school, the inventions of the orthodox demons of ancient and modern times; of which class there are yet many legions. By the aid of these new discoveries, it is to be hoped that the whole universe will be converted into heaven; that both cold and darkness will be proved to be but heat and light: for a benevolent creator could never have been the author of either winter or night. Every thing incompatible with universal benevolence, according to the new standard of benevolence, is the creature of the wicked orthodox. Indeed, had it not been for them, we would have had no torrid, no frigid zones; no night, no winter, no death, no devil, no hell, no future condemnation: we should have all been in Eden, in paradise, if these were not mere figures of speech.
5. What is the meaning of the word Heaven?
Answer. Once we regarded it as the eternal home of the righteous, a state of pure and perfect felicity. But we do not now know what to think about it. If these gentlemen were only to turn their telescopes in that direction, perhaps they might discover that it only means air. It is only a strong metaphor. And as Satan is a metaphor for an evil nature, so the term Saviour is a metaphor for a good disposition, and heaven denotes only peace of mind. Religion is very
much simplified by the recent lights which have been shed upon teves lation by these spiritual astronomers. There is nothing real and unfigurative but this present life. The good are now in heaven, and the wicked are now in hell. Satan and the Saviour are two beautiful eastern metaphors; one the emblem of light and moral good, the other the emblem of darkness and moral evil. Every thing is temporal; and there is but one tense, and that is the present. The day of judgment is past, and we are all now in our eternal homes. Let us, then, eat, drink and be merry.
If we have not answered these questions correctly, it must be owing to our having been too intimate with several systems of universal salvation; and it may be that we have become still more liberal and benevolent than the rigid Universalists of the western school, though we are yet behind some of the brethren of the east.
DIALOGUE ON RE-IMMERSION.
(CONCLUDED.) Rufus.-IS there not a very essential difference between believing that Jesus is the Messiah, and believing what he says?
Alexander.-As respects logic or the propositions there is a marked difference. But can you conceive of one believing Jesus to be the Son of God, and doubting whether he speaks the truth?
R. I acknowledge that to believe him to be the Messiah necessarily implies that he speaks the truth; but this does not reach my difficulty. I suppose it to be possible--yes, probable, and more than probable most certain, that some believe him to be the Messiah, and yet do not believe what he says.
A. Understand what he says, I presume you mean,
A. On proper authority he may. Do you not believe in the resurrection of the dead and in a future life?
R. Yes; but I understand the terms, though I cannot understand how the dead are raised, nor in what sort of bodies the justified and the condemned will appear, nor how an eternal life is to be sustained. The fact is revealed, but the mode of its accomplishment is not, fartber than that God is able and faithful to accomplish it.
A. Would it not, then, be better to say, that a person may believe that which he cannot understand, than affirm a universal proposition; such as, No person can believe that which he does not understand ? A child may believe every thing which a truth-speaking father asserts, merely upon the authority of his character for veracity, and understand not a single fact which it believes.
R. Grant it. But I contend it must understand the terms; and the things believed can have no moral influence only in so far as they are understood.
A. To this I object not. But why do you press this matter? 1 may, if I understood your object, save you the trouble of some defie nitions.
R. In retrospecting your arguments, I feel inclined to doubt one of your propositions, viz. Every one who believes that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God, has the faith that saves the soul, and every such person who is immersed into this faith is born a eitizen and becomes a member of the christian kingdom. To this effect you have spoken. Now although I do not feel anthorized to deny this proposition, yet I hesitate in giving it my unqualified approbation; because many seem to believe this proposition who do not believe what Jesus Christ has spoken concerning immersion and many other matters.
A. I now apprehend vour design. You would not, then, baptize any candidate simply upon his profession of faith, unless he professed in detail his faith in all the sayings of Jesus and his Apostles; or what I would say is the same thing-satisfy you that he understands these sayings in the proper sense.
R. I would, indeed, wish to be assured as much as possible that he believes all that is spoken concerning the remission of sins and adoption into the family of God prior to his immersion.
A. And who would not? But if these matters are first stated to him, or if the ancient gospel is first announced to him, it is fairly to be inferred, that in coming forward and professing the faith, he is understandingly immersed into that faith.
R. But this brings us to the old question What of those who had not this previous knowledge? Can they receive or enjoy the remission of sins? They did not believe the sayings of Jesus, though they might have be.ieved him to be the Saviour. And do you not teach that no person can enjoy that which he understands not? If, then, they understood not immersion for the remission of sins, they could not receive, or what is equivalent, they could not enjoy, the remission of sins from immersion. 9. True: many are immersed because they think their sins are forgiven then before they are immersed; nay, amongst the Regular Baptists it is required that they profess a hope of remission before
they are supposed to be worthy of immersion. ..R. A hope of remission!! What a man possesses why does he yet hope for?! If they have remission why do they yet hope for it!
A. Unquestionably the term is wholly misapplied; for hope looks not back: it can never turn its eyes backward: it can look only forward. But they mean one thing and : ay another.
R. Let them tell their own meaning in their own words. How do you know they mean what they do not say?
A. Because when they explain themselves they say they had remission through faith; and if they thought they were not forgiven, they would not solicit immersion. But I confess many of them speak as if they had a hope that they would hereafter be forgiven, and no assurance nor pledge that they are forgiven.