Page images

rience. Anl just as impossible to evade the pain of conscience arising from a transgression of the moral law, by a knowledge that such violation shall be overruled, even for our own future good.

Another argument in support of the hypothesis that limits all the sequences of sin to mortal life is drawn from that class of passages in Scripture which speak of present punishment, as, for instance, “The righteous shall be recompensed in the work; much more the wicked and the sinner.” 20 It is loosely inferred from this, that if sin is punished here, sin can not be punished hereafter, else the sinner would receive double for his sins.21 This argument seems based upon the old idea of punishment—as a kind of revenge specially inflicted by the Deity in retrospect of sin, instead of a consequence naturally following from man's moral nature. Adopting the newer and more rational theory of punishment, as a reaction of the abused conscience, the argument fails in application. It would be in amount like this: Sin produces remorse in the present life. Therefore sin committed here can not produce remorse hereafter, otherwise there would be a double remorse for sin. This is no more logical than to say that a sin committed to-day produces remorse to-day; therefore there can be no remorse for the same sin to-morrow. None will dispute that a sin committed this week may occasion compunction next week, or in future years. And if the sinner should die in the day of the transgression, it is not easy to discover how death should preclude remorse, if memory and conscience survive the body.

The promise of the final restitution is sufficient for all the purposes of consolation. It is enough to be assured that the forces of evil will be intercepted before they reach the cord on which is suspended man's final destiny, without contending for the unrevealed and questionable doctrine that all unhappiness is confined to earth. Why, then, the tenacity sometimes manifested in denying all future penitence for sin ? Perhaps it may be answered, that the Scriptures do not positively reveal any future retribution, and our prooftexts may be demanded. In regard to the testimony of the Scriptures on this point, there is a difference of opinion which it is not the present purpose to discuss. Certainly the Scripture does not deny this doctrine, nor affirm the opposite. And waiving the inferential argument already adduced, that the Scriptures declare the punishment of all sin, and that all sin is not suffered for in this life; and eren allowing that the Bible does not positively declare the doctrine of future punishment, we should still be unauthorized in a dogmatical denial of all future discipline. In this case, it should be regarded as an open question, like future identity, and the recognition of friends.

21 Isa, xl. 2.

20 Prov. xi. 31.

The only passage of Scripture usually alleged, or much relied on, as disproof of future retribution, is this: “He that is dead is freed from sin.” 22 Allowing, what is by no means indisputable, that this text refers to literal death, the utmost it affirms is, that the departed do not continue in transgression; that the dead are freed from sinning. Have ing previously showed that the moral consequences do not always immediately follow sin, it were superfluous to argue that a cessation from sinning does not necessitate an immediate discontinuance of the penalty. It is not so in this life, either in regard to the moral or the physical effects of sin. He that is in the penitentiary, is freed from stealing; not only from the temptation, but from the possibility; and yet he is suffering the penalty of crime, it may be in regret and humiliation, as well as in the loss of liberty. So it may be in the future, for a season, with those who die impenitent. For aught this passage shows to the contrary, there may be “ spirits in prison ” 23 suffering the penalty of former sins, though delivered and precluded from their repetition.

It may be argued that if the evil reminiscences of the present life awaken regret in the future, the regret may be endless; and that, hence, the theory of future disciplinary suffering involves the doctrine of endless punishment. But the natural tendency of remorse, in this life, is either to produce penitence and reformation, and consequently pardon and relief, or to exhaust and paralyze the sensibility of con. science, and bring moral atony. The latter occurs when the transgressor continues under evil influences ; but the former, when he is aided upward by the power of grace. In the future life, there will be none but elevating influences, and the sorrow will bring penitence and pardon and salvation.

22 Rom. vi. 7.

23 1 Pet. iii. 9.

The strength and duration of penitential sorrow are in proportion to the magnitude of transgression and the depth of guilt. The remorse of Adam for the transgression in the garden may have recurred occasionally during the whole of the nine hundred years that he sojourned on earth. It was doubtless keenest at the first, growing fainter with the lapse of time. There is a recuperative power in the moral as in the physical nature, which, with time and treatment, will heal the wounds that have been made by sin. There is a limit to the power of grief, even in this life. And as time bears no proportion to eternity, the deepest sorrow a finite being can suffer must have an end.

L. C. B.


Our Civil War.

At last, the crisis has come. Our chronic sectional strife has ripened into blood. Bullets have taken the place of ballots. Rebellion has attacked our flag. Traitors menace our Capital. Anarchy threatens our government. War has begun. Already its first martyrs have fallen, and the next message that clicks from the telegraph may bring tidings of severer conflicts and of still more serious slaughter. As the consequence, the whole North is resounding with the cry, “ To arms !” Our cities have become camps ; and the land, just now so peaceful, is echoing with the roll of the drum and the tramp of hosts marshalling for battle.

What is the meaning of all this? Who are the aggressors? Is our position necessary? Is it expedient? Is it right? These are questions fitting these pages, and we propose an attempt to answer them. As we commence to write, the country is yet in suspense and expectation. Washington is thought to be safe. Cairo is entrenched. Norfolk is in blockade. Baltimore has just been occupied. But Fort Pickens and Harper's Ferry are in debate, and the rebels are said to be concentrating in Virginia. We know not what a day or an hour may bring forth, nor what changes of situation in affairs, or what developments in events may transpire before what we pen in May shall appear in July. Our purpose, however, is not with the stratagies of the campaign, but with the nature of the contest and the questions of duty; and these we hope so to discuss that what we say will still be appropriate, whatever movements or changes may have occurred.

[ocr errors]

Superficially considered, this war seems to be a mere strife of personal or sectional ambition ; or a controversy about he negro; or an insurrection of local prejudices because Mr. Lincoln rather than Mr. Breckenridge, or Mr. Douglas, or Mr. Bell, was elected President; or, as some would affirm, a quarrel engendered by the officious and persistent intermeddling of the North with the “domestic institutions" of the South. But however these personal and sectional scemings may show themselves on the surface, the war is, at bottom, no such thing; and whoever takes only this view of it, altogether fails to comprehend the contest and the real questions and interests at stake. It is a conflict, not of persons or of sections as such, but of principles. The negro is but the representative of the essential equality and absolute rights of man. The election of Mr. Lincoln has but served as the desired occasion, and is not at all the cause of the disturbance. And this discussion of slavery, of which so much complaint has latterly been made, so far from being an “intermeddling” on our part, is a discussion inherited from the fathers of the republic, the continuance of which has been forced upon us by the persistent purpose of the slave-bazars to take possession of the government, and make it, under republican forms, substantially a vast slave empire. The war dates far back of all these modern controversies and irritations, and is simply our Constitutional incongruities come to a head. It is no strife between the North and the South merely; it is a conflict between two hostile and irreconcilable theories of government and of human rights. It is two distinct types of civilization or rather, it is civilization and barbarism grappling at length in a hand-to-hand fight for the possession of this continent.

1“ I asked a gentleman who has done more to inaugurate the Secession movement than any other man outside of South Caroli • Why have you raised all this tempest about Mr. Lincoln's election?' He replied: "Do not deceive yourself; Mr. Lincoln's election had nothing to do with it, beyond enabling us to rouse our people. If Mr. Douglas had been elected, we should have broken up the Union just as soon. If Mr. Bell had been elected, it would have delayed us but very little. Even if Mr. Breckenridge had been elected, we would have seceded before the close of his term. We believe that there is an essential incompatibility between the North and the South.'”_" Ten wecks in the South-a Letter from A. D. Richardson, Esq., in the New York Tribune, May 10, 1861.

It is the misfortune of nations that they are slow to apprehend the problems given them to solve. We have erroneously thought of the doctrines of democratic liberty as established here. We have seen other nations still struggling in the throes of their enfranchisement, with battles still to fight, with sacrifices still to make, often with blood still to shed in the great controversy of the people against theories, and of equality against privilege ; but we have complacently flattered ourselves that, on our soil, this work had all been done, and that, with no struggle to wage and no sacrifices to make and no heroism to exhibit, we had only to enjoy what our fathers purchased, and to vote and to trade undisturbed under the vine and fig-tree which they planted. This conflict comes to undeceive us. It comes to remind us that there are numerous stages in the grand process of developing ideas into institutions, and of inaugurating principles into the mastery of nations, and that there is work also for us to do in this direction. We, too, it comes to admonish us, have contributions of blood and terror and self-denial to make on the altar of humanity, for the overthrow of oppression and the ultimate enfranchisement of the race. We also, it tells us, are summoned to be heroes, and thus in our turn to make history fragrant with the aroma of sacrifice and valor, and to add still other names to the roll of those who have made themselves illustrious as the soldiers of freedom and progress.

What are the facts ? The South, if it be proper so to designate those engaged in this rebellion, stands to-day upon the same essential platform on which absolutism has always stood, enunciating the same philosophy and putting forth

« PreviousContinue »