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Is He any more obliged to give us existence to eternity, than He was to give us existence from eternity? And what obligation is He under to renew His mercies to those in another world who only abuse them in this? It is so far, then, from being certain from the perfections of God that the wicked will be restored and put in possession of eternal happiness, that it cannot be proved from these perfections that they will survive the present state of existence, or that even the righteous will live for ever. But though it cannot be proved by unassisted reason, that immortality belongs to man, we must not forget that this is brought to light by the Gospel.
If sin be punished at all, the punishment must be in proportion to the magnitude of the offence: it is therefore impossible to conclude any thing about the duration of punishment, till we have ascertained the exceeding sinfulaess of sin, which certainly cannot be ascertained by the light of nature. Our reasonings on the divine perfections would not have led us to conclude that the ground is cursed on account of sin : we could not have perceived so close a connexion between the moral and natural world, as to perceive that a disorder in the one would so materially affect the other. Much less could we have seen that the sin of man is the cause of the misery of the brute creation. For who can perceive any necessary connexion between the sin of a man, and the suffering of a beast? Yet our senses convince us that the earth is under a curse, and that the whole animal creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain ; and revelation informs us of the cause. Had we other senses, we might perhaps trace the effects of sin much farther. It is allowed that the government of God is infinite, and that some connexion runs through the whole ; and it is no more improbable that the whole universe might, in some way or other, be affected by the sin of man, than that it should contaminate our elements, and make the world groan with the miseries of its inhabitants. It must be observed too, that the laws of God have infinite authority stamped upon them, and that God has laid us under infinite obligations to obey them. When we put all these things together ;-when we consider that sin may perhaps be infinite in its effects, that it is committed against an infinite Being, and that it is a violation of infinite obligations, it will be difficult, if not impossible to prove, that sin is not an infinite evil: and if it be an infinite evil, it must merit infinite or eternal punishment.
As lame an argument as Mr. Winchester affects to call this, he has made but a very lame reply to it.
1. “ If sin be infinite, then we must ascribe to it one “ of the perfections of the Deity, which strikes me as " absurd."* Is it absurd to say that space is infinite ? Is it absurd to say some creatures will exist through infinite duration ? Must infinity be ascribed to nothing but God ?
2. “ Actions must take their denomination from the “ actors, and not from the objects.”+ In estimating the magnitude of sin, the objects and the effects of it must be taken into the account, as well as the actors. It is certainly a much greater sin in a man to murder a friend who has a large family, and who has loaded him with favours, than to murder a person who stands in no such relation to him, and who has no family connexions, though the murderous disposition may possibly be the same in both cases. We must consider the objects: the common sense of mankind agrees, that it is much more criminal ato kill a friend, who has laid the murderer under great obligations, than to kill an indifferent person. We must consider the effects : if an unconnected person be slain, the evil goes no further ; but if the head of a family be taken away by the dagger of the assassin, his widow and children, who were dependent on him for support, are reduced to beggary and want : and will any man say this is no aggravation of the crime ?
* Dialogues on the Restoration, p. 185. f Ibid.
3. “ Infinite actions, or actions of infinite magnitude, "require infinite power to perform them."* Mr. Winchester allows that God will reward the righteous actions of his people with glory infinite in duration. Their righteous actions then are infinite in its effects, though not performed by infinite power.
4. “ All sins are offences against God, and if every “ offence against God is of infinite magnitude, how can “any be greater? And thus all distinction between “ lesser and greater sins is entirely destroyed, and all sins “ will be esteemed equal, contrary to the whole tenor of “the Scriptures.”+ Mr. W. talks in this random way, by supposing that sin takes its denomination from the actors only, and not from the objects : but I have shown this to be a mistake. Suppose sin against God to merit endless punishment, yet the degree of that punishment may be in proportion to the depravity of the actor; so that the distinction between lesser and greater sins is as fully preserved upon our scheme, as upon that of our opponents. I
* Dialogues, p. 185. + Ibid. p. 187. | It is rather singular that Mr. W. should be so zealous for the distinction between lesser and greater sins; when, in the very next page, he has destroyed all just proportion between sin and punishment. For he observes upon Jer. xvi. 18. and Isa. xl. 1, 2. “Here a fact is said to be accom
plished, which, upon your scheme, can never be done to all eternity ; for “ if every offence against God is of infinite magnitude, and deserves "infinite punishment, none can ever have received single for one of their " sins, far less DOUBLE for ALL.” Mr. W. here supposes they received double the punishment which their sins deserved. But if God may give sinners as much more punishment as they deserve, he inay give them a thousand times more than they deserve :-here is an end of divine justice. And what have sinners to fear from hell, suppose they only receive single for their sins, if the 70 years captivity of the Jews was double the punishment which their sins merited? I believe the words mean, God had 'given them double the punishment, on that occasion, that he had given for any former apostacy'
It is a fundamental principle of the doctrine of the Restoration, that punishment is corrective in its nature; but this cannot be inferred from the perfections of God. According to the regular operation of the laws of nature, some sins deprive men of the use of reason; the punishment in cases of this sort cannot be corrective, because the subjects of it are utterly incapable of moral improvement. Other sins prove destructive to the animal
economy ; and reason cannot perceive how the punishment of death is a correction. And if God have not connected correction with punishment in this world, how can we be certain he will do it in the next ? Must he alter his laws to our advantage as often as choose to break them? Would not our reasonings on his attributes have led us to the conclusion, that present sufferings, as well as future, must be corrective, had not sense been on the other side of the question ? It appears probable from reason, and certain from Revelation, that God, in connecting misery with sin, designed misery to operate as a warning; thereby to prevent the commission of sin: but there is a vast difference between punishment being a warning to others, and corrective to individual sufferers. The ends of punishment must be ascertained, before we can conclude any thing positively about its duration. I have shown that correction is not immediately connected with punishment in the present constitution of nature, and therefore that connexion is not necessary to the display of the Divine perfections. No other end of punishment leads to any favourable conclusion respecting the doctrine of restoration. It cannot be denied that God intended misery to operate as a warning, unless we will oppose reason to revelation; and since warnings may be useful for ever, to some or other of God's creatures, we cannot be sure that punishment will not be eternal.
The strength of sinful habits is a question of considerable importance in this controversy. It cannot be proved, from the perfections of God, that sinful habits may not become unconquerable. If it be said, that by an omnipotent act, God may recover the very worst; the answer is, that if it were proper for God to operate in an irresistible manner against sin, he would have either prevented its existence, or crushed it at its birth. This conclusion may be denied by those who hold that the grace of God works irresistibly in some, and not at all in others; but it cannot be denied by the Universalists, because they do not believe in the partiality of the Divine goodness in relation to his creatures. We see then that the constitution of the Divine government is against this omnipotent act, and we cannot pretend to prove from the Divine attributes, that God must alter his laws in favour of the most undeserving of his creatures. On the other hand, facts testify that some effectually defeat his gracious designs concerning them in this world; they die hardened in sin ; and if God does not new-model his government in their favour in the other world, there can be no hope of their conversion and restoration.
In reasoning on the Divine perfections, we are liable to contradict acknowledged facts. Thus Mess. Vidler and Wright argue from the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as though man did not possess moral liberty, and as though sin did not, and could not exist, as will be seen at large in the following sections. And if the reader will only be at the trouble to apply all the arguments which they draw from the perfections of God to these two facts, he will find, in general, that they are as conclusive against one, or both of them, as against the endless duration of future punishment.
The Universalists, in common with their opponents, appeal to revelation ; they profess to respect its authority; they ought therefore to be satisfied with its decision. We may be mistaken in our reasonings and conjectures, but what God has said must be true. If the divine word be in their fayour, I will not pretend to oppose to it the