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As to those who refuse to return, and will not seek God at all, (but continue to put their trust in Vanity and Lies unto the End,) they must lie under St. Paul's Curse, until the End comes; but I do not feel myself prepared to explain that Curse, as the good and zealous Dr. Whitby thinks the Pious Men of Old would have done; extending it beyond the End, and turning it into a Prayer, “ that the Lord would reserve them to that great Day, when He at last shall sit in Judgment; in order that, in His own Person, He may smite them with eternal Perdition, and that they may perish under his own proper and everlasting Curse!”
In that great Day, I know that I shall stand in much need of His Mercy myself; and I dare not pray that His Mercy should be limited, and not extended to others. He will best know what is then to be done respecting them. But while they continue in this world, and there remains a chance of their Conviction, and Salvation from Perdition in the world to come, I would rather leave them to the means which God, in his goodness, may make use of for their Conviction and Restoration.
My Brethren! It has never been accounted heterodox or impious (unless perhaps, by the most gloomy and Pharisaical Bigots) in the Divines of our Church, or indeed of any other Christian Church, to treat freely of such Subjects, as the “ Eternity of Hell-torments, an “ Universal Restitution of degraded and lapsed natures,” &c. And some of our most eminent Divines have been considered, as rejecting the former, and favouring the latter, Doctrine.
The celebrated Archbishop TILLOTSON, then Dean of St. Paul's, preaching before the Queen, from St. Matthew, Chap. XXV, Ver. 46, on the 7th of March, 1689–90, furnished an occasion for his enemies among the Non-juring party, to raise a clamour against him, and to accuse him, of having composed and preached this Sermon, by way of Consolation to the Queen, then said to be under the horrors of Despair, on account of her behaviour to her FATHER; " for which Dr. Hickes discharges all the venom of his pen against him.”
This Sermon of the Dean, says Dr. BIRCH, was elaborately defended by Mons. Le CLERC in his Bibliotheque Choisie, in 1705, This induced Mr. John KETTLEWELL, one of the most pious and moderate of the Non-jurors, to make some additions to his Practical Believer, upon the first and last articles of the Creed; the one concerning the proportion between Sin and Punishment; the other concerning the dispensing Power in God, as to Punishments. Dr. Whitby also, on further thought, added an Appendix to his Paraphrase and Commentary on St. Paul mentioned above; endeavouring to confute some of the Dean's arguments, (on the Subject of endless Miseries), whom he describes by the epithets of a great, learned, and excellent person.
The dispute upon this important question was revived by Mr. Whiston in 1740, in a tract entitled« The Eternity of Hell-torments inquired into, with a Refutation of the Common Opinion concerning them, from Scripture and Reason.” WHISTOn's tract was answered by Dr. WILLIAM DOD WELL, in two Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, in March, 1741. Episcopius, the justly celebrated Armenian writer, whose Institutiones Theologicæ, and other writings, contributed very much to the forming some of the greatest Divines of our country in the last age, and in particular Archbishop TilloTSON himself, has in his answer to the 62d question De æternitate pænarum Inferni, treated this Sub.. ject in the same manner with his Grace.—But whoever is curious to see it thoroughly discussed, may consult the several authors cited by the learned Dr. EDMUND Law, in his notes upon his Translation of Archbishop KING, concerning the Origin of Evil.
My Brethern, in these Sermons I teach no other Doctrines than those which I taught and accounted or. thodox, from the beginning of my public Ministry. When the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of our Church, (in General Convention assembled,) first encouraged me to proceed in the Publication of a small Body of Sermons, which might serve as a short System of Divinity for the promotion of practical Religion and Christianity; they
complaisantly declared themselves persuaded "That the “ Interests of Religion and practical Godliness might “ be thereby greatly promoted; and that, being well sa“ tisfied of the Author's Soundness in the Faith, and “ eminent Abilities for the Work, they testified their “ Approbation of the same and of their desire to encourage it, by annexing their names," &c.
I hope I have not disappointed them, nor fallen short of their expectations, and that I never shall (especially now in the closing Period of my Life!) I harbour no enmity to any of those Philosophers, who may think themselves implicated herein. They have done me no harm; and have been so much HUNTED on this subject, that they may be considered as no longer GAME. I wish them only to remember, that Spirits are active there is no standing still in Life-they must either return to find Joy in God as the Center of their Felicity; or proceed downward in their degradation, till they feel a wish to return; yet, even then, after their re-establishment, they must follow far behind those who have kept their first Love!
“This, (says Ramsay) is not by an arbitrary de. "cree of God; but by the nature of things-For the " same Law of Centripetal forces holds in the Intellec“ tual, as in the Material, world. Souls that draw, or
return, to their Center soonest, will forever and ever “ approach nearer to it, than those that began after them; “and so must advance later and far slower towards Per. “ fection, Happiness and Glory!"
Of the same sentiment is Virgil.
“ Easy is the path that leads down to Hell; grim “ Pluto's Gate stands open night and day. But to re" ascend and to escape from thence to the upper Re“ gions, this is an arduous work, this a laborious task "indeed!”
-Facilis descensus Averni;
END OF THE SUPPLEMENT TO SERMON XX.
PREACHED AT ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, JUNE 23, 1784, BEFORE
THE FIRST GENERAL CONVENTION OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CLERGY IN THAT STATE, ASSISTED BY LAY DELEGATES, VOLUNTARILY ASSEMBLED FOR THE FOLLOWING PURPOSES, VIZ.
1. To conclude finally on a Declaration of the Spiritual and Ecclesiastic Rights, to which they conceive themselves entitled, in common with other Christians, in their New situation, as citizens under the American revolution. :
2. To consider what alterations may be necessary, in our Liturgy and forms of Prayer, to accommodate the same to that situation as aforesaid; and for other good purposes, respecting uniformity of worship, and the good government and full organization of our Church, according to the best models of Primi. tive Episcopacy.
ANNAPOLIS, JUNE 22, 1784. The Convention having assembled at the State-House, it was “ Unanimously requested, That the Reverend Dr. SMITH 6 would open the Business of the Meeling, with a Discourse to“ morrow at 11 o'clock, A. M. and that the Reverend Mr. « KEENE would read Prayers."
JUNE 23, P. M. “ The thanks of this Convention were returned to the Re“ verend Dr. Smith for his most excellent Discourse, delivered “ in the morning, and a request was made that a copy might be * given for the press.”
A TRUE COPY FROM THE MINUTES.
WM. VEST, SECRETARY.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY
WILLIAM PACA, ESQUIRE,
GOVERNOR AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE STATE OF
THE FOLLOWING SERMON
IN SINCERE TESTIMONY AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT,
AS WELL OF HIS PUBLIC ZEAL AND REGARD
INTERESTS OF RELIGION AND LEARNING,
THE PRIVATE FRIENDSHIP AND ESTEEM,
FROM AN EARLY PERIOD OF HIS LIFE,
HATH SUBSISTED BETWEEN HIM,
ÅND HIS MOST AFFECTIONATE,
AND OBEDIENT SERVANT,