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XIX. "I cannot be a Universalist, for I fear that the doctrine would fail me at the hour of death.
'A death bed 's a detecter of the heart.'
Many who have believed this doctrine while in health and prosperity, have, when approaching the grave, found it to be a false and an unsafe foundation; have been obliged to relinquish it, and to cry out for mercy. I cannot embrace a doctrine which serves its advocates in this manner. A doctrine which affords hope and consolation when we are in health, and enjoying the pleasure of the world, but withdraws its support when we most need it, is not the doctrine which a prudent man would wish to believe."
There is no force in this objection. It is not true that people renounce Universalism when they come to die. Do we not hear every day of people dying while they rejoice in that glorious faith? and have we not often heard of those who renounced the doctrine of endless misery in prospect of death, and embraced Universalism? Facts do most fully set aside the objection before us. Behold the death of the celebrated John Murray, the early defender of Universalism in the United States. In the last hour he dwelt with rapture on the inspiring theme which had animated his soul for more than half his days, and on which he had expatiated with such great effect in hundreds of pulpits throughout the land. See the edition of his life by T. Whittemore, p. 222. The biographer of that great and good man, Elhanan Winchester, who labored so long and so zealously in defence of Universalism, botli in this country and in Europe, assures us, "that he continued preaching until about the first of April (1797, then residing in Hartford, Conn.) when he delivered a sermon, under a strong impression that it was his last, from St. Paul's farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church. He never entered his desk again. morals, he himself has fallen from his high standing as a Christian minister, and proved himself to have been the slave of the grossest vices. Had he believed what Universalists teach, that there is no safety in sin, that a sure retribution will hasten on, and overwhelm the transgressor before he is aware, he might have been saved from disgrace and ruin.
His death was fast approaching, and he contemplated it with serenity and joy. On the morning of his decease, he requested two or three young ladies, who were sitting by him, to join in singing a hymn, observing at the same time, that he might expire before it should be finished. He began with them; but his voice soon faltered, and the torpor of death fell upon him. They were disconcerted, and paused; but he, reviving, encouraged them to proceed, and joined in the first line. of each stanza until he breathed no more." The Rev. Dr. Strong, a Presbyterian clergyman, and an eminent opposer of Universalism, preached his funeral discourse, in which he gave Mr. W. an excellent character, and bore a frank testimony to his final constancy in the doctrine which he had preached.
The well known instances of Universalists dying in full belief of their cheering opinions, are too numerous for us to make even a reference to the tenth part of them. One or two cases must suffice. Where was the power of pure Christian faith, to sustain the soul in the trying hour, more clearly seen, than at the deathbed of our departed friend, the late Rev. William C. Hanscom, of Waltham, Massachusetts. It was the privilege of the writer of these pages, to be often at his side, during his sickness. Over and over again he assured me, of the comfort which he derived from his trust in the divine goodness, and his hope of a happy immortality for himself, and all mankind. But a few days before his death, I proposed to him the following questions: "Are you happy in your mind?" "Perfectly," was his reply. I remarked to him, "It is said Universalism fails us in the hour of sickness." He replied, "I know, from my own experience, the falsity of this statement. I believe as firmly as ever, -I have no doubt. My faith is not in the least changed. My heart and soul are at peace. Could I live, I should preach more earnestly than ever. I have nothing to regret in my short ministry, except that I have done so little in preaching what I have believed to be the truth.”
The day but one before his death, I was at his bedside. He probably supposed himself dying. His eyes were intently gazing upward, his lips were moving, and by applying my ear, I recognised these words: "I am going home to my Father in heaven, ・my my heavenly home.—I am happy."***** Again, in a few moments, "How sweet 't would be to die ; " ***** and, after a brief silence, he faintly whispered,
"While on his breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there;"
and so he did breathe his life out sweetly, reposing, with implicit trust, on the bosom of his Saviour.
Another more recent instance of the sustaining power of Universalism in the hour of death, is seen in the death-bed experience of the late Rev. A. L. Balch, of Swanzey, Massachusetts. He had been for nearly ten years a preacher of that doctrine. In an obituary notice, published a short time after his death, by the faithful friend who preached the discourse at his funeral, we find the following account of his last moments:
"But if his prospects in life were cheering, and his confidence in the truth of the salvation of the whole race of Adam strong, they were doubly so in death. His disease for the first few days was severe, but for several of his last days he was not in much distress, and was perfectly sane, and conversed upon his departure with that calmness and composure, and even joy, which the faith and hope of the gospel only can give. Many of his friends called to see him, whom he exhorted to continue steadfast in the cause of truth, and go forward in building up the glorious cause in which they had been mutually engaged. His brother, Rev. William S. Balch, of Providence, who stood by him to close his eyes in death, he exhorted to faithfulness in his calling, as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, after having said all that he could concerning his family (his wife and son), and given directions to his brother with
regard to his burial, &c., and after taking an affectionate leave of all, he desired them to sing the hymn commencing,
'Come, thou fount of every blessing,
"After which, he desired to be moved so that he could see the sun, which, in all the loveliness of an autumnal sunset, was just receding from his view in more senses than one; - he observed the beauty and glory of the scene, and remarked, 'I shall soon behold a brighter sun,' and when the light of day went down, the lamp of life went out, without the motion of a muscle, or the uttering of a groan, on Monday, November 4th, 1839."
XX. There are some other objections which are urged against Universalism, but they are generally of slight importance. Mr. Balfour, in his "First Inquiry," has written largely in reply to the objections against Universalism. See Chap. II., Sect. VI. We must refer the reader to that work for much that we should be glad to introduce in this place, but which must be excluded for want of room. Mr. Balfour has noticed several objections, which we here have not space to notice at all.
WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF UNIVERSALISTS 1
I. Who are Universalists? A Universalist is one who believes in a God of infinite wisdom, and unbounded love and goodness, who believes that Jesus Christ is his Son, and the Saviour of the world, who believes
in the record which God has given of his Son,-who believes that God will overcome all evil with goodness, and who labors to overcome evil himself, in the same way, who loves God supremely, and his neighbours with brotherly affection, as he is required to do. He does unto others as he would that others should do unto him, he is patient under suffering, -comforted under affliction, undismayed under the prospect of death, and filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, in believing that all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God, that the whole creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and translated into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
II. There are two kinds of Universalists. Let us premise, that we do not hold a man to be a Universalist merely because he is anti-orthodox. Universalists, it is true, are opposed to orthodoxy, but that is not the circumstance which makes them Universalists. Infidels are opposed to orthodoxy, but they are not Universalists. Catholics are opposed to what we call orthodoxy, but they are not Universalists. Disbelief of falsehood does not make a man any thing but an unbeliever. To be a Universalist, a man must not only reject the doctrine of endless misery, he must believe in God, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the effectual mission of Jesus to save a world of sinners, he must believe that sin shall be finished, death be swallowed up in victory, and God be all in all: Such is Universalism. Those who believe this doctrine, and those only, are Universalists.
By the two classes of Universalists, of which we promised to speak, we mean positive and negative Universalists. The distinction may at first appear to be trifling; but we think, upon examination, it will be seen to be founded in justice, and will assume some impor
Negative Universalists are those, who merely assent to the doctrine. They believe, they say, that all men will at last be saved. They think the doctrine of end