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A Series Of Letters In Defence Of Divine Revelation by Hosea Ballou

EXTRACTS No. V.

[After acknowledging the receipt of Letters Nos.3 and 4, and remarking on several parts of the reply to Extracts No.2, making some concessions, &c. as he found it necessary, the objector proceeds as follows.]

|But, your final conclusion, after all, comes so near what I conceive to be the truth, that, were you as correct in every thing as you appear to be in this, I should hardly think it expedient to pursue this controversy any further. |The Christian is enabled,| you say, |to hope for existence with God in an eternal state, and this is as much as our present welfare requires.| Most excellent! To this proposition I cherfully assent. Yea, I would consent even to pruning it a little, which no doubt would spoil it in your view. Instead of 'this is as much as,' read, 'even this is more than,' and your proposition would stand exactly right. Again, you say,

|'I have many reasons for not believing in the general sentiment that supposes the revelation contained in the scriptures was designed to prepare men in this world for happiness in another, and that a want of a correct knowledge of this revelation here, would subject the ignorant to inconvenience in a future state. Such a sentiment is an impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God.'

|Here again, should I admit a divine revelation, I most heartily agree with you; and also with the reasoning which follows under this proposition. For it is more consistent with reason and good sense to believe (like the fool) in the existence of no God, than to believe in a God who is either partial or cruel! If such were the general sentiment of mankind, the evils resulting from it, in my humble opinion, would not be worse than the evils which have resulted from the belief in a God of the character just mentioned. One who, according to the sentiment, has let millions, even millions of millions, of his rational creatures die ignorant of a divine revelation, when he knew without the knowledge of, and belief in, such a revelation, they must sink down into eternal ruin and misery! And, so far as a revelation respects the damned, as though it was designed to aggravate and increase their misery by increasing their sensibility, he makes known his will, by special revelation, to a few, accompanied with the gift of his holy spirit, through the divine efficacy of which, a selected and chosen number will be admitted to bliss and glory, to the utter and eternal exclusion of the millions above mentioned!!!

|If such a sentiment does not impeach the divine character, not only of partiality, but of cruelty, I know of nothing that could. But, Sir,

|Are you not aware that your sentiment, as above stated, which has met my approbation, on the supposition that divine revelation can be maintained, is as much opposed to the general sentiment of Christianity, as it respects this particular, as any thing which I have written or probably shall write on this subject? I presume you are aware of all this, and I hope you are prepared for its consequences. You have more to apprehend, however, from this general sentiment, than I have. You have levelled an arrow at the very seat of life of what is considered orthodoxy in divinity, it is impossible but that the wound should be severly felt. For you are not insensible sir, that it is not only the general, but almost the universal sentiment of orthodoxy, from his holiness the Pope down to the smallest child who has been taught to lisp the christian name, that the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ was designed to prepare mankind in this world for heaven and happiness in another. Hence it has been believed that those who have died ignorant of the gospel, and being at the same time born of ignorant or unbelieving parents, must be lost forever. But those who hear and reject the gospel must be still more wretched in another world. With this sentiment, however, it seems you have no more fellowship than I. Therefore, my brother, it may be well for both, but more especially for you, that the days of rigorous persecution are over. For notwithstanding orthodoxy will consider us both equally opposed to christianity at heart, yet, of the two, you will be considered the most dangerous character. I shall be considered the open, but you the secret enemy; who, under the garb of professed friendship, are doing your utmost to sap the very foundation of the christian's hope! And you will not be considered any the less dangerous for your writings, being approved in any sense, by one who has the audacity, as they will term it, to doubt of the truth, of divine revelation! Instead of discovered impious blasphemy in the honest inquiry of your friend as it will be supposed you ought to have done, and instead of threatening him with endless burnings therefor; -- or for not being disposed to receive, even truth, without cautious and thorough examination, you have painted christianity in such beautiful colours that infidelity itself finds but little cause to oppose it. Should these letters therefore ever come before the public you must be prepared for the gathering storm. For should you be able to reconcile revelation with the above proposition, if reason be not fully convinced of its truth, it will find nothing to object to the principles it inculcates. However, as this is not the avowed sentiment of christians, generally speaking, you must permit me to proceed.

|As it respects biblical criticism, notwithstanding all I have written on the subject, if the object is what you have proposed, 'to get the understanding of the sacred text,' I have no objection to it, but, for those who have time and inclination, think it laudible. Your caution, likewise, that in our zeal to cleanse we 'take care and not destroy,' is no doubt reasonable, and I trust duly appreciated. Your method also for curing or removing unbelief is happily chosen, and is what I am now attempting, which, with your assistance, I hope to make a proper, if not a successful application.

|Although the 'validity of the evidences' of revelation was not intended to have been granted, as I have informed you in my fourth number, yet I shall not press you to argue the points till I have given you the reasons for my doubts; for these being removed, nothing more will be necessary.

|Yours &c.

A. KNEELAND.|

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