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The total destruction of sin by means of punishment, and the final restoration of all men to Virtue, and consequently to Happiness -the state for which every scheme supposes they were originally designed a —is the grand doctrine to whịch I would direct your attention. Allowing then the absolute certainty of the punishment of the wicked, there are two opinions concerning it, besides that just mentioned, which require a distinct consideration. One is, that it will consist in Eternal Torments, the other that it will terminate in Annihilation.
In laying before
appears to me to be the doctrine of Scripture on this momentous subject, and which is confirmed by the account which is there given of the moral character and go
• It has always appeared to me a manifest inconsistency to suppose thạt the design of an omnipotent and omniscient Being can be frustrated. And yet is not every scheme, with the exception of that of Universal Restitution, clogged with this difficulty ?
vernment of God, I propose to proceed in the following method:
I. In the first place I shall consider the
arguments for the doctrine of the Eternity of Hell-torments, and endeavour: to
prove that they are not sufficient for its support; and then show, that this doctrine is inconsistent with the Perfections of God, and the declarations of Scripture.
II. In the second place I shall consider the arguments for the doctrine of Annihilation, and endeavour to prove that they are not sufficient for its support; and then show that this doctrine also is inconsistent with the Perfections of God, and the declarations of Scripture.
As there are only the three schemes above mentioned, if the first and the second be found to be untenable, the third is established of course. I shall however,
III. In the third place, endeavour to prove both from the Perfections of God, and the declarations of Scripture, that the End of Punishment in the Divine Government is to reform, from which final Virtue and final Happiness will be the glorious result.
IV. I shall in the fourth place endea: vour to answer the principal objections to this doctrine ; and then conclude with such miscellaneous observations on the advantages of it, as I hope will recommend it to your cordial and thankful reception.
Having submitted to you the method , which I propose to adopt in treating on this grand subject; before I enter upon it more directly, permit me to lay before you, in as few words as possible, what appears to me to be the Scriptural account of the general scheme of the Divine Dispensations.
The very concise but affecting account which is given in the book of Genesis of the fall of man, whether it be considered as a history of events which actually took place, or an allegory, or as both, is designed to convey this important practical truth, that Sin and Death are inseparably connected ;that Death is the natural, necessary, and unchangeable effect of Sin; and that as our first parent transgressed the law of God, or sinned; and as all his descendants have followed, or will follow, his example, so he died, and they in like manner are all exposed to death. A promise however is obscurely hinted at, of a deliverance from this state, and the whole economy of Providence seems to be adapted to this grand purpose. The Jewish dispensation, which has too often been considered absolutely and not relatively, or as connected with the Perfections of God, and not the capacity of the recipients, appears upon a more
profound examination to be exactly suited to the infant state of mankind, and to be the best scheme which infinite wisdom could devise to prepare them for the reception of a purer system; its object being to preserve in the world the belief of the existence and perfections of the one true God, and of his wise and righteous administration ; and to inculcate a full confidence in him, and an unreserved obedience to his will b.
As instruction can only be communicated to the mind, as the mind is capable of being instructed, so when “ the fullness of time was come,”—when the Jews were prepared by preceding revelations to receive it,—the Kingdom of God, of Christ, or of Heaven, was introduced. It appears from all the repre-, sentations which are given of it in Scrip
6 See Dr. Cogan's Disquisition on the Jewish Dispensation respecting Religion and Morals.