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taught and inculcated ; and so universally received ; has all the force and authority of Cus. tom on its side, every prejudice in its favor, and will plead prescription. It is no wonder then, the contrary belief should with such difficulty find its way, be so hard of digestion, and meet with no easier access to the minds and judgments of the generality, even of Christian professors. A habit of thinking, is as hard to get rid of as a habit of drinking, or any other bad habit we have contracted : Like a mighty torrent, it breaks through all opposition, and yields to nothing but superior force ; and not even to that without turbulence, noise, and murmuring. - Where the belief of Universal Salvation has obtained where it has got over its first difficul. ties, and made its way, in some measure, into the heart and judgment of any--it is not immediately a settled point with such persons ; but ebbs, and goes back again, many times, before it comes to this. It is an opinion only, for some time, before it is an Article of Faith; and has many a struggle and debate, before it gets seated in the mind, and becomes a fixed principle.
The Israelites of old were for going back a. gain to Egypt, though they had escaped from her bondage, and were in the right road to Canaan, the land of promise; saying, from the force of custom, "It was better with us then, than now."
So is it with some Universalists, at first coming into the view they have been so used to think otherwise, and find such inward as well as outward opposition, in going forward in their faith ; that they halt many a time ; and are al
most ready sometimes, to give up the march,and the point.
If these then, are thus harrassed, through prejudice of Education, and former hab. its of thinking ; how great must be the influ. ence in those, who are not at all in the persuasion and belief of it! Prepossession and Custom, accounts for this.-Origen, in his de fence of Christianity, against Celsus, has the following striking passage : "Such is the pow. er of prejudice, and the love of opposition, that it often happens, we cannot discern the most apparent truths, and are loth to endure the shame which attends a recantation of those false and dangerous principles we have once embraced; and I think, it is every jot as easy, to leave any bad habit we have unhappily contracted, though it be as it were rooted in our very nature, as to leave the Opinions which we formerly held; and which were very dear and familiar to us. " It is well known, we do with a kind of secret re. luctance, forsake those houses, cities, and vil. lages, which by our long and delightful continuance in, and have rendered themselves familiar, and even natural, to us."
Others again do not see the latitude of the gospel salvation, through constitutional fear, and diffidence. No masters of the subject, and slow, perhaps, of conception, and apprehension, (even when evidence is given) they are fearful of themselves ; jealous, lest they should be imposed upon by others ; and frighted at the thoughi of consequences, if they should ; and sinking under these frights & fears, they are hard of access upon the point; and so decline, rather than attend
to it. Being children in understanding, they act as such ; and, in this respect, but slowly become men. They have no material objection to this doctrine; are no enemies to it ; never deny it; nay, think and speak well of it, as worthy of God, and acceptable to men, if true : but here they stick ; their fear is greater than their faith : and therefore they receive it not with joy. They do not oppose it; but neither do they embrace it, so as openly to confess, it. They are fearful, and that is all they can say.-- It is this, and not enmity, that shuts out their firm and steady belief of it. And it is a sort of fear, that is both pitiable and pardonable, in them, (tho’not in others) as it cleaves to,and over-powers them, in most other things. It suffices, perhaps, that such as these live in the spirit and love of this truth, without being concerned in the defence of it. Others, of stronger faith, and more natural and acquired courage, are the proper
udvocates for it.
We meet again with some, who in general fall in with this belief ; but through an indolent and slothful spirit, have no heart to pursue the enquiry : if others will do it for them, it is well : but they are careless, and indifferent about it themselves,& so remain sceptics, rather than believers of it : It may,or may not be so ; it seems all one to them; they are at ease about it. But this is culpable ; this is reproveable ; and what has stopped many in their spiritual growth and improvement. Diligence and activity are here needful ; and those who will not be at the pains and trouble to search it out, are likely to be
without the comfortable light and enjoyment of it. It is not a doctrine that will commend it. self to the lazy reader of Scripture : those only who seek and search for it, will satisfactorily find it. But so few are willing to do this, that it may be assigned as one reason, why so few there be that find it, The soul of the suggard desireth, and bath nothing ; much less such a portion as this. Who would have discovered the doctrine of the Antipodes, the Geargium șidus, or countries before unexplored, if all men had been like minded with these ?
But again ; wilfulness, and an obstinate tem. per of mind, is another sad reason some remain strangers to this extensive grace of the Gospel. They have formed their plan ; they have settled their faith, and have fixed their system ; and, right or wrong they are determinately bent to abide by it : nothing shall alter them. A no. ble principle this, if men were infallible.; and not liable to err, and mistake! But this being the case, it proves sometimes hurtful; has hina dered some from coming forward in the truth, and shackled many in the point we are upon, Finding it against them in some respects, and contrary to their pre-conceived views, they are obstinately set against it, and will neither hear, read, nor attend to it ; nor so much as lie open to conviction : they have taken offence at it, and that is enough : in their occasion, who can turn them ? Let what will be said, they are at a point : they are predetermined ; nothing shall convince them. This sturdiness of mind is a great evil ; a bar to all improvement; and
what must be mentioned as excluding reason why some do not see this fulness of the Gospel salvation. These five reasons then, I send you at this time, and they are all my paper will at present allow. The rest (which are many) shall all come in their season ; but I can now only add, I am firmly, and affectionately
Yours, A. V.
L E T T E R VIII :
Assigning more Reasons why it is not more gene
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I AM accounting for the backwardness of the times, and the reluctance of many in coming into that noble, generous, and heavenly doctrine of the gospel, the return of all apostate and rebellious creatures to the favor and friendship of God, in and by Jesus Christ.
I have already mentioned some reasons of it; this will multiply them. A
A perverse and obsti. nate temper, was the last I had occasion to speak of; I will now go on and say, Pride seems another. There are some things in the doctrine of Universal Restoration, which, at first hearing, very ill suits us.
Like some other doctrines, it