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spoken of for another state of existence. In proof of this, we need only refer to the great stress that has been laid on that passage, in the 3d chapter of the first epistle of Peter, which speaks of Christ's preaching by his Spirit to the spirits in prison. Would so much stress have been put upon this obscure, and, to say the best, this equivocal proof, that the gospel was preached in hell, if any better proof could have been found?
Upon the whole, we have plain positive scripture testimony on the one side, and comparatively none on the other. I do not however mean to say, that nothing plausible and specious has been, or can be brought up in favour of the final salvation of all
Many very specious things have been said on this side of the argument.
But they have rather been objections than arguments. They have not been proofs, so much as they have been appeals to the feelings, and short-sighted sympathies of human nature. And they have not been founded so much on plain scriptures, as upon inferences drawn from the mercy of God. And it is to answer, in a few words, those objections that we now hasten to the examination of the second general proposition.
II. Because God renders to every man according to his works, he is therefore, a God of mercy. That is, his mercy, as well as his other attributes, is interested in the righteous retribution of his gracious rewards and condign punishments.
1. That this is true of the gracious rewards with which God blesses his children, here and hereafter, there can be no question. Therefore, on this part of the subject, I shall not now take up time. But it is questioned whether it is consistent with the mercy of a benevolent God, to inflict a punishment which is not designed to benefit those that are punished. Or (which, as it relates to the objections on the ground of mercy, is nearly the same thing,) whether it is consistent with the mercy of God, to inflict upon the wicked an endless punishment. This is the point at issue. In opposition to what has been advanced, in the foregoing discourse, it is asserted that all punishment is disciplinary-designed to reform and benefit the sufferer. A merciful God, it is said, can inflict no other. Therefore none of the subjects of God's moral government can be punished eternally. Most of the objections brought against the eternal punishment of the wicked are founded on this argument. And from this argument the final salvation of all men is inferred. But is this good reasoning? It is certainly contrary to the modern, and almost universally received, principles of philosophising. The path struck out by Bacon, and successfully followed by Newton, is to trace facts up to first principles and not to assume first principles, and from these infer facts.This system of philosophy, as applied to moral subjects, has been clearly illustrated by Reid and Stewart. From these great men, we are taught, both by precept and example, to lay aside our own wisdom, the result of speculative reasoning, and calmly sit at the feet of our great Teacher, the God of nature and the God of grace; there to learn, from the principles made known in his works and word, the righteous laws by which he governs the physical and moral world. On the subject under examination, we can arrive at the truth in no other way. Are we sufficiently acquainted with the attributes of God to inser from these a priori what will, or what will not, be the fate of the wicked?
2. If God had made no revelation to us in any way, concerning the punishment of the wicked, we must have been entirely ignorant with regard to it. But he has made a revelation, in which, as we have seen, the weight of argument proves that the finally impenitent will for ever be excluded from Heaven. This weight of argument however great as it may appear, must all be set aside, according to the system objected to, because such punishment is inconsistent with the character of God. But how is this proved ? Has God ever said so? If not, on what principle is it inferred? The scriptures doom the sinner to hell, and there they leave him. They make no provision for his escape. They contrast his dreadful fate with the endless happiness of the righteous--they speak of an eternal hell, in the same terms, and at the same time, that they speak of an eternal heaven. “But all this is nothing, for God's mercy and goodness will not suffer him to inflict any other than a disciplinary punishment.” But what is man to reason thus? Has he been the Lord's counsellor? Has he been able to comprehend the divine perfections, and bind the Deity by his attributes, as with the cords of a man?
3. God's attributes, it is acknowledged, are all interested in all his works. We may as well say, that God is divided, as to say one acts without the other. And we may as well say he is at war with himself, as to say that one acts in opposition to the other. The demands of his justice are not unsatisfied in the sale vation of the believer ; neither is the display of mercy excluded, in the punishment of the impenitent. But God acts upon the scale of general good. And is there no way that he can display his mercy in the punishment of the wicked, except he show mercy to those who are punished? There is, if we will believe the psalmist. In the 136th psalm he gives thanks “to him that smote Egypt in their first born, for his mercy endureth for everThat overthrew Pharaoh and his host, in the Red Sea, for his mercy endureth for ever." But why were those events a proof that God's mercy endureth for ever? Not because there was any mixture of mercy towards the Egyptians, but because, by this destruction of their enemies, he wrought a merciful deliverance for his people.
The judgments with which God visited the Israelites, in the wilderness, the apostle says, 1 Cor. 10, 11, were for examples and for admonition to his brethren, in the church, on whom the ends of the world had come. And he has introduced this into his epistle, that it might be for the admonition of the church in all
ages. The same may be said of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah," which were made an ensample unto those that should after live ungodly.” And "the angels that sinned, whom God spared not, but cast them down to hell; and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment," are held up as a warning to sinners. Now in these instances of punishment, there is mercy displayed; since one design of this punishment was to deter others from sin ; and thus in mercy to promote the general good. But there was no mercy to the sufferers. As it respects them, the punishment was “judgment without mercy, wrath without mixture."
Here then we have - scripture proof, that God does inflict punishment which is not disciplinary; and yet so far is it from being contrary to his mercy, that there is a display of mercy made therein. By it He mercifully protects and delivers his children from the hands of their persecutors.--by it he graciously warns others against sin. And thus, in his moral government, he promotes the general good.' And will it still be cona tended that such punishment is contrary to the goodness of God?
4. That motive must originate in the divine goodness, the tendency and design of which is to prevent sin. Now the penalty of God's law is held up to the subjects of God's moral government; to prevent sin. Therefore this penalty must be founded in the divine goodness.
If such motives are not necessary in the government of God, why does he make use of them? Why are they found in the bible Either the bible must be given up, or else it must be acknowledged such motives are necessary:
And it must be allowed, the greater the penalty the stronger the motive. The greatest penalty, therefore, which man can suffer, will operate, when annexed to God's law, as the strongest motive to obedience. And it will consequently present the strongest barrier to vice, and be the most effectual in maintaining submission and good order in God's moral government. Therefore the mercy of God to a sinful and rebellious world, requires that this motive should be set before his disobedient subjects.-And is God's government founded in falsehood? Does his mercy require that he should not execute upon the obstinate, the penalty his goodness prompted him to threaten? The mercy of God is, in no case, at war with his truth:
This affords another striking proof that the future punishment of the wicked will not be inconsistent with the divine goodness.
5. The known principles of God's administration, in the moral government of the world, involves suffering ; and this suffering, all acknowledge, is in consequence of sin. VOL. VI.
If suffering for sin then, in some degree, is not inconsistent with God's goodness, who can determine when and where that suffering must stop, lest it should encroach upon that goodness ? God has taught us, by his administration, that sin deserves and receives punishment; and he alone can determine the extent of that punishment. For myself, I know of no argument, drawn from the mercy, love or goodness of God, against eternal punishment, but will, in principle, bear with equal force against any degree of punishment; and indeed against every kind of suffering.
if it is said, that God must be deficient in power or in goodness, if he permit the eternal misery of any of his creatures, I will prove, by the same reasoning, that God must be deficient in power or in goodness, or he would not have permitted misery at all. If it is said that a God of infinite mercy cannot delight in the eternal misery of any of his creatures; I answer, a God of infinite mercy cannot delight in the sufferings of any of bis creatures for one hour. If any one should say, “if I could prevent it, I would not suffer any one to be miserable for ever; much more then will not God, who has all power, and whose mercy exceeds mine, as much as the heavens is higher than the earth. In reply, I would say, if I could prevent it, I would not permit misery at all; I would put an end to all the suffering of afflicted humanity erery where; much more then God will not permit suffering, who has all power, and whose mercy exceeds mine, as much as the heavens are higher than the earth. But God does not put an end to suffering. Affliction and sorrow are universally experienced notwithstanding the infinite power and mercy of God. Thus we see all the force of the foregoing arguments, against eternal punishment, bears with equal weight against matter of fact. Therefore these arguments are unsound, and should be given up. Every modest man, who is not disposed to set up the results of his own reasoning against the known principles of God's moral government, will, when he finds those results and these principles opposed to each other, give up the former and submit to the latter. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” But you may say—“ Limited suffering is consistent with God's goodness, because he will overrule all for the good of the sufferers. They will not in the end, be the losers for their sufferings, but rather the gainers.” To this I answer,
1. This destroys entirely the penal sanctions of God's law. It is saying to man, if you transgress, you shall be punished in such a measure, and to such degree, as shall, in the end, make you the happier for all your suffering. Who does not see that this is holding out a reward for transgression, rather than a penalty?
2. Could not God have made man just as happy, without causing him to suffer at all? If you say he could not you limit his power, if you say he has the power but not the will, you limit . bis goodness.
However, you will say, God, for reasons best known to himself, sees it most proper to permit some suffering in the world, and overrule it all for the general good. True, and for aught this reasoning proves to the contrary, God sees it best that the impenitent transgressor, voluntarily living and dying impenitent, should be “punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
But you cannot see how this can possibly be for the best; and you have many reasons, in your mind, against it. Neither
see, how it should be best to have a system involving suffering at all; and I have many reasons, in my mind, against such a system. Therefore, I never should have believed any kind of suffering necessary, if God had not declared it necessary, by his word or works. And it is no matter of wonder that I should not have seen the propriety of this; for I have never been the Lord's counsellor. He never has shown me all the secret springs, the wonderful operations, the nice connections, and the distant bearings, of his moral system.
Neither has he shown them to you, nor to any of his creatures. How presuming is it then, for us to pretend, by our inferential reasoning from the attributes of God, to determine how far the penalty of his law extends ? That God's mercy endureth for ever, we must all acknowledge. But what is or is not consistent with this mercy, God alone must determine. He has determined it. The inspired psalmist, in an appeal to God himself, has said, Unto thee, O God, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his works.
Having gone through the argumentative part of the subject, as time and ability would permit, suffer me, my respected hearers, to close by a short address.
The eternity of future rewards and punishments is a subject which, at the present, excites among us considerable attention. In consequence of the plausible objections, that are made to the doctrine of endless misery, the minds of many serious, candid people, have become unsettled: and the irreligious and profane, almost en masse, and with but little examination, are greedily swallowing down the doctrine of immediate happiness or final restoration. Others, whose feelings have become neutralized by the arguments of the contending parties, are looking on with a dangerous indifference. This state of things is alarming to the friends of virtue and of truth. I would therefore call your attention to the subject, by all the interest which its awful realities involve. I do not wish to excite you to war, but to investigation. I do not wish to stir up the spirit of bigotry; but I would excite you to a love of the truth, and to a vindication of it. I speak not to sound a false alarm, but to give a necessary caution. The question respecting future punishment is an interesting one. And the strong probability that that punishment will be without end, renders it awfully interesting. And your believing or not believ