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wretchedness, and curse it with a life, which, with the exception of a mere point or two of time on this earth, may be to it an agonizing and intolerable burthen forever? It is impossible. And if he intends the happiness of every creature, and yet that happiness is not at last effected, he must be deficient in wisdom and power; deficient in wisdom to plan the means, and in power to produce the end.-Should it be asked, why there is any pain or suffering whatever in the world; why all men are not formed to be always and entirely happy without any liability to sin or misery; the answer is, that the scheme of Providence is evidently progressive, and we are bound to believe it the best which could have been adopted; that we see pain followed in many instances by the most beneficial consequences,
and should conclude that under the administration of Omniscience this will be its final and invariable result; and that so long as there is a great and ever increasing preponderance of happiness in the existence of every individual, the gift of existence must be to every one an inestimable blessing.--Should it be said, on the other hand, that the very principle that a certain proportion of evil is conducive to the greatest degree of happiness, may demand the eternal misery of some in order to secure the greatest general good-it is answered, that it is impossible to conceive how the infinite misery of the majority is to bring about the greatest sum of felicity; and further, that if the system of Providence does not tend to the ultimate good of all, it is not a perfect or a merciful system; and if there is a single person whose existence is on the whole miserable, the Creator is to that person a partial and malignant being; for what is it to him that the rest of creation
are happy so long as he can never share their happiness. Happiness cannot be of this transferable nature. That God may be infinitely good, he must be good to every creature whom he has made; and he cannot be good to every creature if he even places one of them in danger of everlasting misery. From the acknowledged attributes of God therefore, I draw the conclusion that the doctrine of everlasting punishment must be false.
We may arrive at the same conclusion by considering the true nature and design of punishment. Punishment is the infliction of pain, with the intention of producing reformation. If it be not conducted with this intention, it is revenge. We say then that no other punishment can be employed by the all-merciful God, than corrective punishment. Like the figure of Janus, it must have two faces; and while one of them looks back on the offence, the other must look forward to the reformation of the offender. A purely merciful being cannot make use of punishment which is merely vindictive. By inflicting pain on account of the commission of evil, he must intend to correct the cause of that evil. If with the intention of correcting, he does not at last correct it, he manifestly wants the power of effecting his end, and is no longer omnipotent. And as evil is corrected, the subject of the correction must become virtuous, and consequently happy; for to say that the cause is removed which produced misery and called for correction, and yet that the misery will remain, is an absurd contradiction; it is to say that the individual has returned to virtue, without experiencing its necessary and constant influences and effects. In short, the very idea of corrective punishment contradicts the supposition of its eternity; and corrective
punishment alone is consistent with perfect wisdom and goodness.
I know that it is common to say, that outraged justice demands the infliction of punishment without regard to correction. It an abuse of the word. Justice demands nothing which is inconsistent with goodness. What indeed is the justice of the Supreme Being, if it be not the designs of his infinite goodness directed by his infinite wisdom, and accomplished by his infinite power?
We come next to the doctrine of the final extermination of the wicked; which teaches, that after the wicked have been made to undergo in the future life a dreadful and protracted degree of suffering, they shall at last be forever annihilated. This doctrine appears to me to be nearly as irrational, if not quite, as that which has just been examined. It is not so revolting to the feelings, because it does finally put an end to the tortures of the condemned; but that is the only advantage which it possesses over the other. It militates equally with it against the perfect attributes of the Creator. It supposes that he has created beings to whom existence has been a curse; that he has ordained, or permitted, I care not which word you use, that there should be millions of creatures, who after having passed a life on earth of varied pleasure and pain, of fancied good and real bitterness, and after having suffered a long and dreary retribution after death of unimagined torture, should then be swept away from the vast creation, and be as they had never been.-And why punish them at all? Why not annihilate them, if they are to be annihilated, immediately on the visible death? Their future torments are to be of no service to themselves, for
when they have been tortured for an indefinite length of time, without the least purpose of producing any change in them, they are to be blotted out eternally. Neither can their punishment be of any advantage to those who are saved and happy. These last need no such examples, surely, to terrify them from going astray; and Heaven forbid that we should entertain that most inhuman opinion, which has nevertheless been supported by many a narrow sectarian, that the happiness of the blessed will be increased by a view of the miseries of the damned! Heaven forbid that we should disgrace ourselves by admitting a thought so purely diabolical! -We see then that the same considerations and arguments apply against this doctrine, which were urged against that of eternal misery. We know that many adopt it, whose good feelings will not permit them to receive the other system; but we cannot help thinking that the one bears the same harsh and gloomy features as the other, though with some modification; and that they both should be renounced and avoided by those who would entertain clear, satisfactory, and ennobling views of the government of God.
We now come, in order, to the doctrine of universal salvation; by which I mean the doctrine held by those, who affirm that vice receives its full punishment in this world, and virtue its full reward; and that in the next world all men will be immediately and equally happy; in short, that in the life which is to come there will be no suffering for any human being.-- This doctrine certainly looks more amiable than those which we have just been considering; but I cannot perceive that it has much reason in its favour. In the first place, we deny the assertion that vice receives its full punishment
in this world. We will not in this connexion repeat the common remark, that the guilty are often seen living and dying in prosperity, while the virtuous are as often afflicted and oppressed; because though this may be perfectly true, it is not going to the bottom of the matter; but we say that we often see the guilty dying in their guilt, without remorse and without repentance—that we often see those on whom all the punishments of this life, however severe they may have been, have not worked reformation—and this is going to the bottom of the matter. The design of punishment is to remove the cause of the crime or misdemeanour punished, that is to say, the evil disposition which produced it. Just punishment, as I have before observed, is corrective. But many of the wicked in this world are not corrected by it. Their evil dispositions obstinately remain; and for wise purposes, no doubt, they are permitted to remain. But these dispositions must be eradicated, before the individuals can possibly be happy-and they are finally eradicated, as I believe, by the corrective discipline of the future life. On the supposition that there is no future punishment, there can be no correction; and to what does this conclusion lead? To this most wonderful one that they who died in sin, will rise in innocence; that they who went to sleep in the direst guilt, will wake to perfect holiness; that, as it is allowed on all hands that there can be no happiness without virtue, the wicked will experience, either in the grave, or on the first instant of their resurrection, such an entire change of all their evil desires, intentions and propensities, such a complete obliteration of all their vicious dispositions and habits, such a thorough renewal of