« ForrigeFortsæt »
Liberality of a Church of England Dignitary. ARC IDEACON Wrangham, in his Collection of learned Discourses and other miscellanies, lately published, having devoted a sermon to the defence of the peculiarities of his own church, weaves into it a description of a faithful, anxious, and assiduous shepherd of the English fold, which he thus concludes;
“Not overcome with evil, he overcomes evil with good. These are the lawful triumphs of Christianity. This is the Charity, which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. He has seen virtuous Unitarians, and virtuous Catholics, virtuous Calvinists, and virtuous Methodists; and though he neither, with the first, affirms the Father to be exclusively the proper object of worship, nor with the second prostrates himself before a host of created beings; though he presumes not, with one class, to contract the capacity of heaven, nor affects, with ano. ther, in simulated or selt deceiving ecstacies to anticipate its beatitudes,--he trusts that he is guilty of no spurious candor in professing his expectation (should he himself be accounted worthy, through that Saviour in whom he has suberly believed as the sole intercessor withi God, and the Redeemer of all mankind) of seeing them again in that kingdom, whither many
shall come from the East and from the West, and from the North and from the South.” Vol. II. p. 319.
On the Future Life and Condition of Man. That when we die we are not to die eternallythat death is the suspension, not the extinction of our being—that another life will succeed our death, and, subject to no other death, endure forever; is a probable conclusion of reason, and the express declaration of the Gospel of Christ.
What our condition is to be in this future and eternal life, does not so plainly appear. There has been much controversy on the nature, degree, and duration of its rewards and punishments, and on the connexion between its allotments, and our conduct in the present state of being. The four prominent doctrines which are held on this subject, are, the eternal damnation or misery of the unrighteous; the annihilation of the wicked; the immediate salvation of all; and the final restoration of all.
In examining this highly important question, I cannot expect to gratify the views and wishes and preconceptions of all who read. In adopting one system, I must necessarily reject others. In investigating truth, I can pay no heed to any body's partialities or prejudices. I can have no motive in what I say, but a desire of inculcating what I believe to be true; for neither
person, will be determined by what I think about it If my destiny, or the destiny of any human being, is to be eternal misery, I cannot avert it by insisting that it will not be so; and if all men, even the most depraved, are to enter into immediate possession of the joys of Heaven, without the least previous correction of their bad habits and inclinations, I certainly have no wish to prevent their happiness, and they will inherit it, notwithstanding all I may advance to the contrary. If my conclusions are true, all the opposition in the world would not prove them false; and if they are false, no approbation of them whatever would make them true. I do not oppose any opinion because I wish to displease or offend those who hold it, but because I believe the opinion itself to be unsupported and untenable. Neither do I maintain any opinion, be. cause it may be found in the creed of a particular sect or party; for I agree with no party any further than its doctrines agree with truth. Let no one therefore be offended by what I may advance, but examine its pretensions with candour and care. At any rate, I shall discuss the subject without reserve; for I have no idea, when I am defending the dictates of reason, and the doctrines of undefiled religion, of suffering my mind to be intimidated, or my words to be regulated, by the fear or the favour of man.
I will now proceed to consider separately the four systems above stated, in the order in which I named them.
And first, the doctrine of eternal punishment teaches, that by far the greater part of mankind enter, after death, into a state of torment as horrible as the omnipotence of an angry God can inflict, as unintermitted as the flow of time, and as lasting as eternity.* This doctrine becomes if possible more revolting, when connected with the doctrines of natural depravity and election, which assert that all men are liable to everlasting punishment on account of the sin of Adam, and that only a few who were elected before the foundations of the world, are to be delivered from this curse of their nature, by conversion or regeneration, without any regard to what they may have done or omitted to do. But it is not necessary to give the Calvinistic view of the doctrine. In its simplest form it is shocking enough; for in its simplest form it supposes that there are human beings, who, within the rounds of a few earthly years, can commit sin enough to render themselves worthy of ceaseless torment through the countless ages of eternity; and that no remorse, no repentance, no desire to return to God and goodness, will ever entitle them to the least remission or suspen. sion of this inconceivable woe, nor to the slightest hope that it will ever be mitigated or come to an end.
* One extract from Edwards’ Sermon on the Eternity of Hell Torments, will be a sufficient statement of this doctrine. “How dismal will it be when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them; to have no hope. When you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad or serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice, if you might but have any relief, after you have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it; when after you have worn out the ages of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day or night, or one minute's ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered; when after you have worn out a thousand more such ages, yet you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit Dearer the end of your torments; but that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend for ever and ever; and that your souls, which have been agitated by the wrath of God all this while, yet will still exist to bear more wrath; your bodies, which shall have been burning and roasting all this while in these glowing flames, yet shall not have been consumed, but will remain to l'oast through an eternity yet, which will not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past.”
The few arguments which I have to offer against this doctrine, are to my mind conclusive. They are drawn from the character of God, and from the true design and end of punishment.
We all believe that God is perfectly good, and perfectly wise, and infinitely powerful. Such ideas of the Deity do in themselves contradict the notion of endless misery; and I cannot see how any person can hold them all consistently with each other. If God is perfectly good, if he is the very essence of benevolence and goodness, he must have designed the happiness of all his intelligent creatures—he must have designed to make existence on the whole a blessing to all on whom he has bestowed it. If he is perfectly wise, he must have adopted the best method for securing such a result. If he is infinitely powerful, he must be able to guard against every circumstance which might defeat his purposes, and he must finally and inevitably accomplish them. These deductions appear to me to be drawn directly from the unquestioned premises, and to be as sure and as sublime as the holy attributes which furnish them. How can a Being who is goodness itself, form a creature who shall be even liable to everlasting