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salists against endless punishment, is, that it exceeds the demerit of human sin. But before they can with propriety assert this, they must either have direct and plain evidence of it from scripture, or be able by their own wisdom to comprehend the whole evil of sin. As to the first; let them show the direct and plain evidence they derive from scripture, that endless punishment exceeds the evil of sin. If it had been the design of scripture to teach this, we may well wonder that, when describing future punishment, it has used such unguarded expressions. Everlasting flunishment, the worm that dieth not, the unquenchable fire, and other similar phrases of scripture lead us to cherish the idea, that endless punishment is proportioned to the demerit of sin ; and therefore it seems very strange, that God should introduce such expressions, if he knew, and would have us believe, that endless punishment exceeds that demerit. But on this point they are not much accustomed to argue from scripture. That endless punishment is beyond the demerit of sin is, they pretend, very evident to their reason. But that they may judge, whether endless punishment be proportioned to the evil of sin, or not, it is necessary that they have a perfect comprehension of the evil of sin. In order to this, they must possess a clear and adequate knowledge of that Being, against whom sin is committed. The degree of malignity in sin has an evident relation to the greatness and goodness of God. It is a well known fact, that sin always ap
pears to a man a greater or less evil, as he has a higher or lower apprehension of God. Accordingly, although it now appears to universalists, that endless punishment exceeds the evil of sin; yet how do they know but a clearer and more adequate view of the perfection of God would raise their idea of the evil of sin so far, that endless punishment would appear perfectly equitable? Besides, they who take it upon them to affirm, that endless punishment exceeds the demerit of sin, should be able to comprehend the vast extent of creation, and to know all the injury which sin would occasion to the whole intelligent system ; yea, that they fully comprehend all the evil consequences which it naturally tends to produce throughout all ages, and even to eternity. For it is unquestionably just, that sinners be charged with all the natural, direct consequences of their actions, and be treated accordingly. Now whether they, who pretend to determine, that there is a disproportion between endless punishment and the evil of sin. have what is necessary to qualify them for such a determination, let Christians judge. Have they by searching found out God 2 Have they found out the Almighty to perfection 3 Do they know the extent of creation ? Do they know all the dreadful effects, which would naturally result from sin to the intelligent universe, through everlasting ages 2 Unless they possess all this " knowledge, their undertaking to deny the proportion between endless punishment and the demerit of sin is weakness and presumption. ... How much more
reasonable a part do they act, who humbly refer this subject to the wisdom of God, and implicitly confide in the declarations of his word. Here it will not be improper to consider, how exceedingly unfit mankind are to judge, on the degree and duration of the punishment which they deserve. Besides being creatures of yesterday, totally unable to comprehend that divine perfection which sin opposes and dishonours, and the extensive and endless mischief which naturally follows in its train ; they themselves are the sinners, whose guilt is in question. They are the criminals, who are to be sentenced, and are subject to all those strong partialities, which persons are apt to feel in their own favour; partialities, on account of which neither divine nor human law suffers men to sit as judges, in their own case. Revelation teaches, that all judgment is committed into the hands of the Son of God, and that the judgment, which we pass upon ourselves, is to be governed by the solemn information which he has given us, and by a constant reference to the final sentence which he will pass upon us. The method, which universalists adopt, when they undertake to reason from scripture, is highly exceptionable. If we wish for the plainest and most satisfactory information on any subject, we must apply, with peculiar attention, to those pressages, in which the inspired writer is professedly and explicitly treating that subject. For example ; if we would know the mind of the Spirit respecting the natural character of mankind, the offices Vol. III. No. 6. – I I
of the Saviour, the gracious purpose of God respecting the salvation of his people, the nature and necessity of regeneration, &c. we must search those particular portions of the Bible, in which these subjects are most directly and fully explained. Our sentiments on these subjects should be primarily founded on the plainest and most appropriate declarations of scripture. Other passages, where the subjects in question are incidentally mentioned, or by distant implication referred to, may afford additional proof or illustration ; but such proof or illustration must always be viewed in subserviency to the principal passages. To apply this to the subject before us; if we would obtain satisfactory information respecting the future punishment of the wicked, we must primarily attend to those scriptures, in which the transactions of the all decisive day are disclosed; in which the final sentence of the Judge against the wicked, and the duration of their future punishment are most expressly declared. But such scriptures as these universalists disregard or pervert ; while they found their opinions on passages, in which the subject is very obscurely hinted at, or in which other subjects, having an imaginary, but no real connexion with it, are brought into view. Their own arguings, implications, and deductions are taken for substantial evidence, and are set up in opposition to scriptures, which are too plain to be misunderstood, too solemn and weighty to be overlooked, and too clearly and strongly expressed to admit of plausible misconstruction. Though it seems hardly necessary to enlarge on this point, yet it may not be tedious or useless to attend to the following specimen. The Judge of angels and men has expressly foretold not only the general transactions of the last day, but the very words, which he himself will speak to the wicked ; “depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;” and has declared what will actually follow their awful doom ; “they shall go away into everlasting flunishment.” Here Christ is professedly treating the point in question ; here, consequently, we expect the most clear and certain information. But it is not from this passage, that universalists make conclusions favourable to their system. This is not one of their texts. They resort to those, which speak of the benevolence of God, the all sufficient atonement of Christ, the universality of the gospel offer, the gracious design of the afflictions of the saints, &c. But what if God is infinitely benevolent 2 Who will dare to say, that the infinitely benevolent God does not see the endless punishment of the impenitent necessary to the best interest of the universe, which is the object of his benevolence 2 What if the atonement of Christ is all sufficient : Who can infer from its ailsufficiency, that it will certainly be received by all : What if the gospel offer is unlimited 2 Unlimited offers may be rejected, and the blessings involved in them lost. What if the present afflictions of the saints are intended, and actually operate, as salutary discipline : It does not hence follow, that the future
punishment of the wicked will have the same effect. Thus but little attention is necessary to show, that the principal scriptures, which universalists press into their service, furnish no valid argument in support of their scheme. By thus exposing some of the arts of universalists, and showing, in a few leading points, that their sentiments are contrary to inspired truth, it has been my aim, Christian churches, to guard you from danger. The imposing scheme of universalism is interwoven with degrading apprehensions of Jehovah's character and government; while it sets up a god, other than the true God, and which wicked men would love. Can you approve and countenance such a scheme 2 Has not its influence always been pernicious to Christian piety and morality ? Is not a time of general impiety and wickedness the time of its easy triumph : From its prominent features, from the arguments urged in its defence, and from the effects which would naturally flow from its universal prevalence, do you not perceive, that it is the offspring of error, an enemy to the true interests of Zion, and poison to the sout? Will any of you embrace a sentiment which freely coalesces with all the depraved passions, and which finds a welcome reception and quiet residence in the heart of impenitence 2 Will you countenance a doctrine, which diminishes or takes away all the restraints of divine law, and opens the floodgates of irreligion and vice : Let all men vigilantly and resolutely shun this doctrine, which keeps sinners from repentance by firomising
them tife. And as their greatest safeguard, let them search and reverence that sacred book, which brings immortality to light; which presents eternal blessedness, as the encouragement and reward of the holy, and unveils to our view that eternal destruction, which is the certain portion of the wicked. PAston.
THo UGHTS ON 1 cor. xv. 19. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most iniserable.” THE proposition contained in these words appears, at first view, to be plain and simple ; but to ascertain its particular meaning, and application to the apostle's argument, has been attended with some difficulty. We are surely not to consider the apostle as asserting that Christian rewards are so completely confined to a future life, that those, who are his faithful followers, are really in a worse situation, and enjoy less happiness in this life, than the rest of mankind. This opinion of religion is frequently entertained by those who are strangers to its power, and consequently to its comforts. Religion appears frightful to their imaginations, a composition of gloom and melancholy. But is this either the language or feeling of any one, who has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious : Surely not. Nor can we believe that the apostle ever meant to inculcate such a sentiment. Setting aside future prospects, which, according to the supposition in the text, are cut off, the influence of religion in
calming the passions, moderating the desires, disposing to a cheerful acquiescence in the allotments of Providence, promoting justice and friendly intercourse among mankind, and diffusing a spirit of universal benevolence towards our fellow creatures, tends greatly to promote present happiness. Let any person, who has paid but a moderate attention to what passes within his own mind, reflect on the period when he was either fretted with envy, burning with malice or revenge, inflated with ambition, distracted with worldly schemes, or chagrined with disappointments, and venting his spleen, if not directly against God, yet against every person and thing around him, and contrast it with the time when his passions were calm, and he felt that resignation to the divine will, that contentment with the allotments of providence, and that spirit of benevolence to all his fellow creatures, which genuine religion inspires ; and he will find no difficulty in determining at which period he was the most happy. Beside, although the outward situation of Christians is sometimes more inelligible than that of other men, that is by no means the case universally. We find many persons of that description, who, though they may not be figuring on the theatre of the great world, are yet in that situation which Agur prayed for, as the most eligible of all, i. e. with neither poverty nor riches, but with a competent share of domestic comforts, and exempt from the calamities usually attendant on wicked courses. Exclusive of
the superior joys which the
Christian sometimes has in the contemplation of the persections of God, not only these, but many other considerations might be mentioned to show that godliness hath the firomise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. While on the other hand, the vanity which providence has stamped on all worldly enjoyments; the lashes of an accusing conscience, sufferings from the prevalence of malignant passions, connected with the misery and distress, and even contempt from the world itself, which is frequently the conscquence of vice ; painful fears lest those principles of religion should eventually prove true, which none has ever been able to demonstrate to be false ; all these things combine to show, that the way of transgressors is hard, even should there be no hereafter. We cannot therefore suppose that the apostle asserts religion to be disadvantageous on the whole, even in this life. Nor will it come up to the full extent of the meaning of the passage, to limit it to the apostles and primitive Christians, as if it asserted that they, who were so severely harassed and persecuted were, as it respected their situation and enjoyments in this world, more miserable than other men. It must be allowed that if we confine our views to temporal things alone, we shall find that Christ's apostles and the primitive preachers of the gospel were exposed to many and grievous sufferings. They were liable to be killed all the day long, and were ever accounted as sheep for the slaughter; and many of them actually lost their lives for their adherence to the cause of
their Master. But we do not find that the apostle ever considers either his own situation or that of others to be on this account worse on the whole, than that of other men. They had the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, as well as joy unspeakable and full of glory. As divine consolations are usually apportioned to the day and the occasion, it is not to be doubted but they usually possessed enjoyments, which rendered their present situation more comfortable than that of their persecutors, or than that of any one, who is a stranger to the peace and pleasantness of wisdom's ways.
It is, therefore, still necessary to search for a different meaning of the passage; and by comparing it with the preceding verses, aud with the scope of the apostle's argument, which was to prove the doctrine of the resurrection, the words are not only easily understood, but the argument is also forcible and conclusive in favour of the apostle's doctrine. By attending particularly to the chapter we observe, that the great argument by which the apostle proves the resurrection of the dead, is the resurrection of Christ. This fundamcntal article of the Christian faith he had before informed us was attested by a large number of unexceptionable witnesses, to whom he had appeared, at different times, after his resurrection. But if the dead rise not, then all this story about the resurrection of Christ, which is pretended to be proved by so many witnesses, is a mere fabrication, and he is not risen. But is Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea,