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TO A GENTLEMAN AT TRINITY COLLEGE,
Leicester, April 30, 1821.
I am considerably at a loss how to answer your letter. I sincerely sympathize with you in the perplexity you experience on a very high and awful subject. For my own part, I acquiesce in the usual and popular interpretation of the passages which treat on the future doom of the finally impenitent. My reasons, in brief, are as follows :I assume it as a maxim, that we are utterly incompetent to determine, à priori, what is the amount of guilt incurred by such as reject the overtures of the gospel, any further than God has been pleased to make it the subject of express revelation ; that the terms expressive of the duration of future misery are as forcible as the Greek language supplies; that the same term is applied to the duration of misery as to the duration of happiness, or even the eternity of God himself (Matt. xxv. 46; Rev. xix. 3); that the exclusion of the impenitent from happiness is asserted in the most positive terms—" they shall not see life,” &c. &c., that “ their worm dieth not, and their fire is not extinguished;" that positive terms may be understood in different degrees of latitude, but this is impossible respecting negative terms, since a negation admits of no degrees.
If the eternal misery of a certain number can be rendered conducive to a greater amount of good, in relation to the universe at large, than any other plan of action, then the attribute of goodness requires it: for I take it for granted, that the Supreme Being will adopt that scheme, whatever it be, which will. produce the greatest quantity of happiness on the whole.
But our faculties are too limited, and our knowledge of the laws of the moral world, and of the relation which one part of the universe bears to another, too imperfect, to enable us to say that this is impossible. For aught we know, therefore, the existence of eternal misery may not only consist with, but be the necessary effect of supreme good
At all events, it is a subject of pure revelation, on the interpretation (of which] every one must be left to form his own judgement. If the milder interpretation can be sustained by a preponderating evidence, I shall most sincerely rejoice; but I have yet seen nothing to satisfy me that this is the case.
I would only add, that, in my humble opinion, the doctrine of the eternal duration of future misery, metaphysically considered, is not an essential article of faith, nor is the belief of it ever proposed as a term of salvation ; that if we really flee from the wrath to come, by truly repenting of our sins, and laying hold of the mercy of God through Christ, by a lively faith, our salvation is perfectly secure, whichever hypothesis we embrace
on this most mysterious subject. The evidence accompanying the popular interpretation is by no means to be compared to that which establishes our common christianity; and, therefore, the fate of the christian religion is not to be considered as implicated in the belief, or disbelief, of the popular doctrine.
Earnestly wishing you may be relieved from all painful solicitude on the question, and be guided by the Spirit of God into the paths of truth and holiness, I remain, Your obedient humble Servant,
TO RICHARD FOSTER, JUN. ESQ. Dear Sir,
Leicester, July 21, 1821.
kind favour, (which I should have acknowledged sooner, but was not at home,) including a draught for 771., and odd.
With respect to my sermon on the Trinity, I entered into no metaphysical disquisition whatever, I merely confined myself to the adducing passages which go to prove a plurality of persons in the blessed Godhead: such as the plural name of God in the Hebrew, the use of plural pronouns, the injection of plurals in the name of God coupled with singular verbs, the use of the terms, Makers, Creators, &c. I adduced Isaiah, saying, “ The Lord hath sent me and his Spirit,” &c. From the New Testament, I mentioned the
baptismal form, the salutation to the Corinthians. To these I added the principal passages usually adduced in proof of the divinity of Christ and the personality of the Spirit. In short, it was a mere appeal to the letter of scripture, without the smallest attempt at metaphysical refinement. I considered that doctrine continually as a doctrine of pure revelation, to which reasoning can add nothing but darkness and uncertainty. It appears, however, to me replete with practical improvement, being adapted to 'exhibit the part which each person in the blessed Trinity sustained in the economy of redemption, in the most engaging light, and to excite the utmost ardour of gratitude. The time was when I maintained the dual system, supposing the Holy Spirit to be an energy; but I have long found abundant reason to renounce that doctrine, and now find much complacency in the ancient doctrine of the Trinity.
As you mention the [meeting-house] being shut up, I hope it is to heighten it. I have no doubt that the extreme heat and closeness of the place must have a very injurious effect on the health both of the minister and people. I hope you continue comfortable, and that the Lord is giving testimony to the word of his grace. The interest of religion, in a church which I served so long and so happily, will ever lie near my heart.
I am your affectionate Brother,
ROBERT HALL. LXVI.
TO THE REV. ISAIAH BIRT.
My dear Sir,
Leicester, May 29, 1822. I am much obliged to you, for your very cheerful compliance with my proposal respecting supplying and preaching for our school during my visit to Kidderminster. It is an arrangement which gives high satisfaction to our people. The prospect of spending a little time with my dear and honoured friend, is, I confess, my chief inducement for proposing it.
I should be very unhappy if I did not spend a little time with you, at least once a year; and as Providence has happily placed us in the same general vicinity, I shall always eagerly embrace the opportunity it affords. Friendship is the balm of life; and the thought that time must dissolve, ere long, the tie that has so long united us, would be melancholy indeed, were it not for the consoling recollection of a reunion in a better world : “ Let us love one another, for love is of God;" and I hourly hope we are both training up for a world of perfect love. I am certain of it respecting you. O that I had as great an assurance respecting myself! But I have a feeble hope, which I would not exchange for a world!
With respect to the other part of the arrangement, having heard nothing from Tamworth as yet, it seems premature to say any thing of it.