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An inquiry, whether it be not th: benevolent and gracious plan
of God, that all men shall, eventually, be virtuous and happy?
A LL parties agree that God hath created man ;-that he was a defe&ible creature, in his original constitution ;-that he fell from his primeval state and became a finner ;--that God pitied him, in his lapsed state, and provided a Mediator, a Savior. In these things, I may suppose, each denomination of christians readily concurs. The sule matter of difference, perhaps, will be the ex. tent of the mediatorial design ; whether God really intended the holiness and happiness of all men, or of a part only. The plan of divine and mediatorial benevolence, as just stated above, includes the whole human race. And we can no other way obtain entire fatisfaction in this matter, than by an examination of the sacred scriptures. Reason knows nothing of a mediatorial plan of God, but what he hath been graciously pleased to reveal. I shall seriously address myself to an examination of the holy scriptures, after I shall have premised a few plain rules of interpretation, by which I generally conduct my own inquiries after the meaning of scripture, and by
which, it may be well, that the reader should exaraine my interpretations.
That sense of scripture, which, upon a first carefu! reading appears natural and easy, is generally the true meaning. If there be difficulty in the in. terpretation of a passage, in any particular writer, compare the dubious passage with others of the same writer, that appear more plain, and are on the same subject. This will generally succeed. If not, cot. late a number of passages on the same subject, from different writers, and from different parts of the fcriptures. Always remembering that the Bible contains one consistent scheme, and that the sacred writers agree in their accounts of it. Sometimes it is useful to have recourfe to the Hebrew and Greek text; or to revert to the customs, manners," habits,
&c. of the people and places mentioned in the 'scriptures. By these rules, and in these ways, if we have honest hearts, we may find the true inter, pretation of scripture:
In this part, I shall take no other notice of the passages of fcripture which Mr. S. hath adduced in proof of eternal sin and mifery, than I shall take of any other passages of fcripture ; using those passages of his, which plainly prove the extensive nature of the mediatorial plan, as I do other fcriptures In the next part, I shall consider some passages Mr.S.; hath used in support of the doctrine of eternal misery as objections against universal salvation. .
The first we hear of a mediatorial plan of God, is
in the history Moses bath given us of the defection of Adam and Eve, and of the conversation which the divine Being vouchsafed to hold with thein. It is Gen. iii. 15. “And I will put enmity between thee, and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise bis heel.” Divines, and interpreters of all fects of christians, have agreed that, by the seed of the woman, is meant Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who was born of a woman. That some individual was intended, and not the whole race of men, is much faa vored by the use of the singular personal pronoun. This admitted, what appears the most natural and easy sense of the passage ?
“He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Not that Chrift should put an end to the serpent's existence. This would have been no mate ter of comfort to Adam and Eve. The serpent had seduced them. They had now lost their inno. cence, and were, undoubtedly, senGble of some of the sad consequences of their defection, and wanted something to encourage their faith and hope in the divine mercy. To tell them that, in rome future distant period, some one should arise who would destroy the serpent's being, wou!d have presented them with no present ground to hope in the mercy of God. But to have acquainted Adam and Eve in their then present circumstances that a great friend and benefactor of mankind should arisc, who should effectually counteract the design of the
ferpent, open a way of access to divine mercy and restore them and their children to the favor of God; this language would have administered the comfort and consolation which these grand parents of our race then wanted.
The history is short. We have reason to believe that much more passed between God and Adam than Moses has recorded. But not to enter into a. ny conjectures concerning what God might have said to Adam and Eve; this text is transmitted to us, and we have a right to interpret it according to the best light we have. And if we interpret the words according to their easiest and most natural meaning, we must suppose that God intended to de. stroy the works, and not the existence, of the ferpent. Sin and misery are the works of the Devil. These God de Gigned to destroy. That God prom. ised Adam that he would destroy all the works of the devil, and banilh all fin and misery out of the world; is the grand subject of controversy.
The fimile, made use of, the bruising the head of the forpent, would easily and naturally icad to the universal sense ; whereas the limited and partial sense appears unnatural and constrained. To bruise the head of a serpent, is to kill him; and hath been the uniform method of killing serpents, from the days of Adam, to the present time.
The promise to Abraham, that in his feed "all the families of the earth should be blessed," Gen.
xii. 3. exceedingly favors tke universal sense of Gen. iii. 15.
By this feed of Abraham all interpreters agree that Christ was intended. Consider this as a promise of benefit to men through Christ, and it is difficult to find language more universal. "
Buttwe will go on to those passages of scripture that speak expressly of Christ's interpofition, fuffer. ings and death; and we may easily fatisfy ourtelves whether they speak of the design of Christ's suffer. ings and death in limited or universal language.
The xvii. chap. of John I have chosen to men. tion in this place for two reasons. Ope, that I consider it as a clear and plain demonstration that Christ intended the benefits of his mediation should so extend to all the world, as that the world thould be saved by him. Another reason is, that Mr. S. hath chosen this text as a plain proof of partial elec. tion to falvation. And if we may be as fuccessful in refuting Mr. S.'s scripture proof of eternal lin and misery, as we have been in refuting his proof from the nature of divine benevolence, we shall be quite willing to submit our examination to the de. cision of the impartial public,
As Mr. S. hath made a partial quotation from the above mentioned chapter only, 1 beg leave to recite and paraphrase the whole.
“ Thefe words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and faid, the hour is come; glorily thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee."