Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

66

a

tion are so far from implying that all creatures, or all men, shall be happy forever, that the contrary is necessarily implied, viz., that creatures will be punished without end, even as many as shall be necessary for God's highest honor and praise. The smoke of their torments shall rise up in the sight of all happy intelligences, and bring a tribute of praise to God, which shall be actively offered up to him by those who are bis happy friends. (See Rev. xix. 1, etc.)

“ The Lord is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Ps. cxiv. 9.) "God is love.” (1 John iv. 8, 16.) It is said the character these words give of God is inconsistent with his making any of his creatures miserable forever.

Ans. 1. This is not inconsistent with his punishing them, and inflicting very great evil and misery upon them. This we know he has done in this world. He destroyed the inhabitants of the old world with a flood; he burned up the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone; he overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea; he destroyed the inhabitants of Canaan by fire and sword; and he inflicts all the evils that nations or individuals have suffered in this world, of which there are instances innumerable, and many of them very dreadful and terrible. The Psalmist says, in the words preceding those just quoted, “ Men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts." In Ps. lxvi. 3, etc., are the following words: “ Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! Come and see the works of God; he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men." And he is often styled the great and terrible God, with whom is terrible majesty. And if all this be consistent with his goodness to all, and with his tender mercies being over all his works, then any degree and duration of punishment which his creatures deserve may be consistent with it, notwithstanding any thing we know. Can any man prescribe to God, and point out the exact meas. nre of evil, and the length of the punishment creatures may suffer, consistent with his goodness?

Ans. 2. God may be good to all, and his tender mercies he over all his works, and yet punish his creatures with endless misery. Where is there one, who has not experienced the goodness of God? Let him be pointed out, if there be one. In this world, of which the Psalmist evidently speaks, and not of the invisible world, every one who has lived, does now, or ever will live, receives great and constant kindness from God; for every thing better than perfect misery is goodness and tender mercy to sinners."

Some render the original words thus, “ His tender mercy is above all his works." That is, his work of mercy in the redemption of sinners is his chief and highest work. So it is translated in the Septuagint, and by others,

Ans. 3. Though God be love, infinite, unbounded goodness, yet this is not only consistent with his punishing creatures according to their deserts, but his great love and goodness may influence him to punish them without end, and not to do it may be inconsistent with infinite goodness.

It is not thought inconsistent with the greatest benevolence and compassion in an earthly king or judge to sentence a criminal to a most painful death, and to see it executed, when the sufferer deserves it, and this is necessary for the public good; yea, this is not only consistent with the most extensive and unblemished goodness, but is itself an exercise and act of love and goodness, because the public and general good is sought and promoted by it. And it is the nature of true and the most exalted love and benevolence to regard the good of the public, and not to give that up, and act contrary to it, in order to favor an unworthy individual. To do this is partiality, which is contrary to uprightness and goodness. Yea, to spare the criminal from just punishment in such a case would be so far from the dictates and fruit of love, that it would be an act of unrighteousness and cruelty, to injure the public, and hurt millions, in order to grant an undeserved favor to any individual. Should a king spare his own son from a just pun. ishment, when the good of the public required that it should be inflicted, and thereby ruin the whole kingdom, this would be the height of injustice and cruelty."

If God be infinitely good, he must and will punish those creatures who deserve it with endless punishment, when this is necessary for the highest good and happiness of his kingdom, - for this is the dictate of the most perfect love, and not to do it would be inconsistent with goodness. If this be so, in vain is the love and goodness of God alleged as inconsistent with endless punishment. That the highest good of God's eternal kingdom does not require that such a pun

* And his causing his son to be punished would be so far from an act of cruelty, that it would be an act of mercy, and perfectly consistent with love and tender compassion for his son. Yea, it would be an evidence of his true benevolence to his son, as it would be the strongest evidence of his love to the public, for true love to the community necessarily implies benevolence to every individual of which the community is composed.

The following words of Cicero, the famous Roman orator, in his fourth oration against Catiline, who was at the head of a conspiracy, formed to destroy the city and the principal men in it, are worthy to be introduced here :

"For let me ask, should a master of a family, finding his children butchered, his wife murdered, and his house burned by a slave, inflict upon the offender a punishment that fell short of the highest rigor, would he be counted mild and merciful, or inhuman and cruel? If we punish them (that is, the conspirators) with the utmost severity, we shall be accounted compassionate, but if we are remiss in the execution of justice, we may deservedly be charged with the greatest cruelty in exposing the public and our fellow-citizens to ruin.

ishment should be inflicted, it is certain no man has any right or ability to determine; and the evidence which there is of the contrary will be considered in the next section.

These are the chief and leading passages of Scripture, which have been thought by the advocates for universal salvation to be most clearly inconsistent with endless punishment. And let every one now judge whether they are sufficient to overbalance those which have been produced in the preceding section, as plainly declaring, in a variety of ways, that the future punishment of the wicked will be endless, so that he can sit down with satisfaction and confidence, and rest his eternal interest on this foundation, and rejoice in the prospect of everlasting happiness, purely because the Scripture says that all shall be happy forever, whatever be their character, and however they live in this world. Yea, let all judge whether these texts have the least weight in opposition to eternal punishment, and are not perfectly consistent with that doctrine. Surely this may be easily decided. Greater light and evidence cannot be desired, and divine revelation has set this point in so clear a light, that he who runs may read, if he have eyes to see.

SECTION IV.

The Doctrine of Endless Punishment confirmed by Reason.

Thougu it be granted that reason, without the help of divine revelation, can determine nothing with certainty about future and endless punishment, yet when we find the doctrine of eternal punishment expressly and abundantly asserted in the Bible, we may reason upon it, and as it must be most reasonable, it may appear to be so, and we be able to vindicate it from all objections which any may pretend to found in reason against it. It will therefore be proper and useful to consider this doctrine in the light of reason, and see how far it may be vindicated on this ground, and whether the objections that are made against it can be supported by

reason.

Not a few have been so prejudiced against this doctrine, by their inclination and feelings, and their own way of reasoning on the subject, that they come to the Bible determined not to find it there, or, if they do, to reject that book as not from God. And some professed Christians have been so weak and unreasonable as to think they have been doing God service, in attempting to prevent persons of this cast renouncing the Bible, and becoming professed Deists, by trying to make it appear that it contains no such doctrine.

A contrary method is here proposed, viz., to examine their reasonings and objections, and see whether they will bear the test of truth and sound reason, or are only the figments of a dark and prejudiced mind.

First. Let it be inquired whether God may justly punish any of his rebellious creatures with an endless punishment, or whether they can deserve such a punishment.

If sin against God be so great a crime as fully to deserve an endless punishment, so that his justice and righteousness may be gloriously displayed by inflicting it, then this may be one reason why he will do it. But if not, if such a punishment be too great, and exceeds the ill desert of the sinner, it is impossible he should be doomed to it by the righteous Governor of the world.

It has been said that endless punishment is truly an infinite evil, and, therefore, cannot be justly inflicted on any, unless their crimes, or their guilt, be infinitely great; for justice in punishing consists in proportioning the punishment to the magnitude of the crimes for which it is inflicted; but no finite creature, especially man, can contract infinite guilt, or be guilty of crimes infinitely great, in the short space

of human life; therefore, cannot deserve an infinite or endless punishment.

Let impartial reason be consulted on this point. If it can be made evident and certain that sin against God is not an infinite evil, a crime of unbounded magnitude, the argument in favor of endless punishment, from the reason of the thing, must be given up, and it must be acknowledged that no reason can be offered why God should punish the sinner forever.* But if sin be an infinite evil, - a crime so great that it really has, in one or more respects, no bounds or limits, and this shall appear to be agreeable to the dictates of reason and common sense, - then it must be acknowledged that it

, deserves an endless punishment, and that this is the proper

[ocr errors]

• It will be thought by some, perhaps, that too much is granted here, and that God's punishing the sinner without end may be vindicated as just and proper, though the infinite evil of sin be denied.

There have been those, it must be acknowledged, who have rejected the doctrine of the infinite evil or ill desert of sin, as not to be vindicated, and involving unanswerable difficulties, in their view, and yet have thought they could give a good reason why they who die in their sins should be punished forever, viz., because they will continue to sin, and remain in a state of rebellion without end, and, therefore, will deserve to be punished without end; and this will be proper, and even necessary.

But, perhaps, when this is examined, it will not appear to have any weight, or agreeable to Scripture or reason; for,

1. The Scripture represents sinners to be sentenced to this punishment, and punished in the future state, for the sins which they did commit, when in the bouly, in this world. When our Savior represents himself as sentencing sinners to endless punishment, the sentence is grounded on their past conduct in this world — “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat,” etc. And St. Paul says, “ We inust all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Therefore, according to Scripture, sinners will be sentenced to a punishment which they already deserve for their sins in this life ; but they would not deserve to be sentenced to an endless punishment for these sins, if they were not an infinite evil, and they infinitely criminal.

wages of all sin against God, and, therefore, he may with justice and propriety inflict it, and must do it, whenever he lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and rewards sinners according to their works.

But when we attempt to reason on this subject, it ought to be done with great care and caution, lest, through partiality in our own favor, we should reason and judge wrong. Men have all sinned against God, and joined in a common rebellion; and this is naturally attended with a selfish partiality, disposing them to overlook their own guilt, and call in ques. tion the righteousness of their Maker's conduct, if he treats them according to their desert. Therefore, however just it may appear to an impartial judge that rebellious creatures should be punished forever, yet no wonder if the heart of rebels should rise against it, and so far prejudice their minds as to blind them to the reasonableness of it, and lead them to pronounce it unjust. The danger of error here lies chiefly on this side.

Whether sin be an infinite evil, and in what sense it is so, will appear, it is hoped, by attending to the following observations, objections, and answers :

1. All sin, or wrong affection and conduct of men, is more or less criminal, according as their obligations to the contrary are greater or less; or, according to the degree of obligation that is violated is the degree and magnitude of the crime in violating such obligation. There are different degrees of obligation. A man is under greater obligation to love and befriend his parents, wife, and children, or his benevolent friend from whom he has received innumerable kindnesses, than be is to a stranger, or one who has no peculiar relation to him. Therefore, if he is unkind and injurious to the former, this is an unspeakably greater crime in him than his unkind and injurious treatment of the latter can be.

2. The obligations which men violate by sin, or wrong

2. There does not appear to be any justice in sentencing a sinner to a punishment which he does not already deserve for what he has done, for this is to condemn him for that of which he hath not been guilty. Therefore, if the infinite evil of sin be given up, there will not appear any justice in endless punishment.

« ForrigeFortsæt »