Your creed plainly implies, that men, both good and bad, may, and often do, determine the endless destiny of their fellow beings, by determining the length of their probation, virtually putting them into heaven, by cutting off all liability to lose it, or into hell by cutting off all opportunity to escape it. And this, also, seems to me an absurdity.
We have already presented one illustration of the above proposition, in the supposed case of the mother who made the "calling and election" of her infant sure, by taking its life. Another is found in a sad accident, which occurred at one of our New England seminaries a few years since. Two young gentlemen were in their room, amusing themselves with a musket, quite unconscious of its being loaded, when the one innocently shot the other, thereby determining his soul at once to heaven or to hell forever.
And still another illustration is found in the death of the drunken rowdy, who fell, at the head of the rum-sellers' mob, at Portland, a few years ago. The balls which, at the order of the resolute city marshal, laid him low, cutting off all opportunity for repentance, carried his soul directly to endless torment. Illustrations to our purpose are also presented in war. Two armies meet. Fearful are the imprecations! Dreadful is the carnage! Balls and bayonets are the swift instruments of everlasting death!
The soldier perishes forever, who might reform and be saved if permitted to return to his home of piety. At the hand of his fellow man, he falls lower than the grave. Nor may any tell how many of our revolutionary colonists are now, in endless despairs sent there by the hired Hessians of George the Third. Nor how many of those whose bones have been brought from the plains of Waterloo, as a fertilizer of British soil, are now in the endless despair to which they were consigned by British swords.
And this, especially, when it is considered, that, of all conditions, that of a soldier, in active service, seems least adapted to promote fitness for heaven. Of course, it is a mystery to us how orthodox Christians can advocate war, or their chaplains kneel mid guns, and swords, loaded and barbed with everlasting death! For these, in their view, are the terrible arbiters of souls' destiny, cutting off their probation, and thereby saying, as with the authority of the Infinite, You shall have no more chance to escape.
These are they that rise up in the place of God, and "shut to the door" against their victims forever. Alas! for the orthodox advocate of war! Let me do him the justice to say, that I think he believes in his creed less than in humanity and common sense.
But, further, our point finds illustration under the operation of the code duello, — that miserable product of dark ages, — that most foolish, meanest mode of settling difficulties — that wretched footman of chattel slavery, accompanying its desolating car, as it dashes into the fair fields of Christian civilization.
The duel settles more than questions of chivalric honor. Instance a case. A and B meet at a public house, drink, altercate, challenge, and accept, choose their seconds, retire and fight. The question of honor is settled by the death of B. And not only that, but the question of B's endless damnation also. The fatal ball settles both. For, while A blows the smoke from his pistol, and retires a victor, leaving the body of the slain to his surgeon and friends, its spirit, prematurely driven out, and thereby excluded all chance of salvation, is met by evil angels in the threshold of eternity, and dragged down into the pit forever.
Thus, according to your penal view, is a question greater than honor settled by the duel. And what does the highwayman do? He meets the moneyed worldling in the way, robs him of his treasure and his life, and throws his body into the thicket, or leaves it in the ditch. But is that all? O no! He also robs his soul of all chances to repent, and tosses it into the thick darkness of despair — buries it alive in hell forever!
So your creed. But the absurdity we are exposing finds a fuller illustration, in cases in which the murderer repents in prison, and finally dies, regretting that he sent the murderer into perdition. Such cases used to be, by no means, very infrequent.
We recently read of one, but have not the details now at hand. Let us suppose such a case, and see its bearing upon the subject in hand. A young lady, respectable, but not converted, is met and ravished, under a dark night, by a villain, who destroys her life to escape detection. Sent thus hurriedly to her God in sin, she is, by the conditions of your creed, of course, lost. No cycle of eternity but shall witness her unrelieved despair. Her soul is assassinated. Out of a dark night of time, she is hurled into a darker night of eternity. The brutal hand that cut her probation short off, thereby plunged her infinitely below the sphere of possible life, shut her up in woe, bolted the door upon her, threw away the key, and left her to pine in anguish forever.
So your creed! And now, leaving her there in her woe, let us turn to look after her murderer. As "murder will out," he is detected, arrested, executed. But, while in prison, blessed with a probation which he forbade to his victim, he comes to himself, heeds his spiritual advisers, repents, exhorts the multitudes from the scaffold, and swings from it into Paradise. And there, because he had much forgiven, he loves much, and never ceases to give thanks for the prison confinement through which the mercy of God reached him.
Thus in heaven the murderer sings. But the young lady, his victim, where is she all this time? Lost! lost! He may have time for repentance, but not she. That was forbidden her, by the red hand that plunged the dagger to her heart. Mercy may come to his prison, but not to hers. That red hand of his may live to be washed, and forever twine wreaths for the immaculate brow of Him whose wrath she must forever bear.
Now, brother, your creed, taken in connection with the history of crime, obviously involves multitudes of cases, similar to any and all which we have stated above. This, you will admit. And, admitting this, can you, as the heart of a man beats in your bosom, fail seriously to query whether that creed is not at fault? Can you be confident in that theology, which thus makes the frantic mother, the officer of justice, the warrior, the duellist, the highwayman, and the libertine, the arbiters of the eternal destiny of their victims; so that, in the case last stated, if it was the hard fate of the young lady to be abused, scared into frenzy, and murdered, it was her harder one to be, by her murderer's hand, consigned to the bottomless pit; while he, by the grace of God, which he denied to her, has space for repentance, and goes up to sing in heaven!
Be your own commentator upon what I have said. The notion that the Living Father has made the endless weal and woe of men thus dependent upon the frenzy, ambition, lucre, lust, and brutality of their fellow beings, well, "he that can receive it, let him receive it."
Rev. M.J.Steere 1861