’Jan. 30, 1858.
’MY DEAR FRIEND,—I did long to hear from you at a time when few knew how to speak, because I knew that you had known everything that sorrow can teach,—you, whose whole life has been a crucifixion, a long ordeal.
’But I believe that the Lamb, who stands for ever “in the midst of the throne, as it had been slain,” has everywhere His followers,—those who seem sent into the world, as He was, to suffer for the redemption of others; and, like Him, they must look to the joy set before them,—of redeeming others.
’I often think that God called you to this beautiful and terrible ministry when He suffered you to link your destiny with one so strangely gifted and so fearfully tempted. Perhaps the reward that is to meet you when you enter within the veil where you must so soon pass will be to see that spirit, once chained and defiled, set free and purified; and to know that to you it has been given, by your life of love and faith, to accomplish this glorious change.
’I think increasingly on the subject on which you conversed with me once,—the future state of retribution. It is evident to me that the spirit of Christianity has produced in the human spirit a tenderness of love which wholly revolts from the old doctrine on this subject; and I observe, that, the more Christ-like anyone becomes, the more difficult it seems for them to accept it as hitherto presented. And yet, on the contrary, it was Christ who said, “Fear Him that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell;” and the most appalling language is that of Christ himself.
’Certain ideas, once prevalent, certainly must be thrown off. An endless infliction for past sins was once the doctrine: that we now generally reject. The doctrine now generally taught is, that an eternal persistence in evil necessitates everlasting suffering, since evil induces misery by the eternal nature of things; and this, I fear, is inferable from the analogies of Nature, and confirmed by the whole implication of the Bible.
’What attention have you given to this subject? and is there any fair way of disposing of the current of assertion, and the still deeper under-current of implication, on this subject, without admitting one which loosens all faith in revelation, and throws us on pure naturalism? But of one thing I always feel sure: probation does not end with this present life; and the number of the saved may therefore be infinitely greater than the world’s history leads us to suppose.
’I think the Bible implies a great crisis, a struggle, an agony, in which God and Christ and all the good are engaged in redeeming from sin; and we are not to suppose that the little portion that is done for souls as they pass between the two doors of birth and death is all.
’The Bible is certainly silent there. The primitive Church believed in the