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Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
323 ihat take place through the action of degree. Take away the natural evil man or other (provident ordination, and it would cease to exist at all. or) creature energy. Finally, I will Will this reasoning apply to the Deirepeat, that I cannot think that every ty? If we conceive that the Deity natural effect is subject or olject of pure is really the Creator of all things, pose and appointment.
which all men now allow; that he This said scheme of divine determi- must be perfectly happy, possessing all nation and ordination, now lies be- things, and having nothing to counfore us simple say-so. But as' it is teract his views, seems to be an unseriously thought that facts do not deniable inference, the contrary of altogether answer to the tale, the which cannot be conceived, but seems matter demands some elucidation. to involve a contradiction. If the And it is hoped, Sir, that this ingeni- Deity then be a perfectly happy being, qus theoretic correspondent will en- it will follow that he can have no page
himself herein to our common desire, contrary to the happiness of interest, and he will oblige an any Being. It will now be asked, OLD INQUIRER.. why then has this happy being pro
duced natural evil, and that moral, Whcther natural evil be the cause of in a word, why has he made any moral evil.
suffering and unhappy beings? _ 1 January, 1816. cannot answer this question. The IT IT is commonly said that if moral usual solution of thinking men is,
evil could not injure sensible beings, that all beings which he has made are or produce misery, it would be no or will be happy, and I confess that if eril at all, and I see no reason to dis- this be not true, the difficulty admits pute this position. There is another of.no solution whatever. Without question, however, connected with this, all is a riddle, an inexplicable this subject, and that is, if the previ- mystery, all reasoning on the divine ous existence of natural evil be not the character and conduct, vain. This is cause of the subsequent existence of universally, or nearly so, the doctrine inoral evil, or whether if there were held by Unitarians, and no other has no natural evil moral evil could be the appearance of common sense, possible in man? Now, all natural connected with the present condition evil, is to sensible beings, unhappi- of man and the belief of a perfectly ness; so the question will be, if nen happy Creator. were all perfectly happy, could an
SEARCH immoral volition or act take place? P.S. May I be perniitted to aske I think not. Every immoral act ape your correspondent, Mr. Belsham, pears to be produced by the imper- who is one of the most diligent stufection of the agent's happiness. He dents in the scriptures now living, if is stimulated by some apprehended he have found any prophecy in the good which he has not and which he Old Testament, which speaks of the desires, and if he were perfectly happy Messiah's dying and rising again the he could have no desires, and there. third day, which seems to be clearly fore could have nothing to draw forth designated by Jesus after his resura an immoral wish. If the will be de recuon, as recorded in Luke. termined by desire, take away that desire, and no volition will be exert, SIR
March 28, 1816. ed. A human being perfectly happy, THE suggestion in a late number, if can do no immoral act, because he
, can have no desire to change his con- “Armageddon," (M. Repos. X. 649] dition. Take away fro:n man in his probably intended in that poem, indipresent state, uneasy passions, bodily rectly to oppose the common notion and mental, and all wants, and the of future punishment, hath induced dread of want, and all moral evil must to send you a few scattered cease. The first pair are represented thoughts drawn up under a similar as not perfectly happy, they had un- idea, somewhat amplified, a few years easy desires, and criminal volition ago : an idea, with which I was followed. Moral evil, therefore, is forcibly impressed, on perusing Dr. caused by natural evil, and indeed in Young's Poem “On the Last Day." proportion io the extent of natural They are part of others on the subject evil; qoral evil exists in a very limited in general, much too long on the
whole, for a periodical work. If the divine of the church of Scotland, in present fragment be not out of time his “ Theologia," 1716, a work, which, or unacceptable, it is at your service. allowing for some parts of the auAN OCCASIONAL READER. thor's creed, contains an inexhaust
able fund of theological matter, Apparent Inconsistencies of great Minds,
treating of the divine patience, says: e.remplified in a series of Extracts on
“Of all the other perfections of the Future Punishment.
divine nature, this of patience hath There yet remains one collateral the shortest tiine to act its part, havargument, of great weight and impor- ing no other stage but this world to ad tance in the writer's opinion, against in: after the end of which, it will both the schemes already treated of, remain, shut up in the Deity, without namely, the indiscriminate notion of any further operation. The time of future punishment, as represented by this life is the only time of long suffersome, or the doctrine of absolute, ing." Yet, he afterwards tells us, eternal and unremitting torments; that the consideration of the divine and secondly, that of punishment patience is to be used as an argument, ļimited in degree, but strictly everlastito manifest the gracious, merciful, ing in duration-an argument, dis- and reconcileable nature of the Deity, tinct in itself, and not inuch advert- and to clear and justify the divine ed to in books ; and that is the inde- judgments in a future world ;-an terminate and equivocal language em abundant patience, called the riches of ployed by the advocates of eternal forbearance and long suffering, far beyond punishment, either in explaining their the patience of good men, of glorified ideas of the doctrine itself, or of cir- saints, or angels." Not to advert cumstances connected with it. If a here to the singular freedom of writer lays down a specific opinion, speech in the former part of this quoand presently shuns the investigation tation, it may be observed, than of it, and elsewhere, perhaps in the which nothing can be plainer, that next page, expresses a sentiment dia- the divine patience and long suffering; metrically opposite, or utterly incon- are often very limited in their exercise sistent with ihe former one; we may in the present life. The Deity doth fairly conclude, either that he hath not often interpose, that we know of, pot forined any precise ideas upon the by miracles, of by remarkable deviasubject; or that he means to com- tions from the common course of napound with different parties; or wish- ture and Providence, to prevent the es to retract in some measure what usual, or the accidental effects as they he had before advanced. Nothing are called, of transgression. The piean be a surer proof of a weak argu- ous author himself observes, “ How mnent, thau a man's authority against many candles have we seen put out, himself
. A prodigious mass of evi- before they were half burnt!". War dence might be furnished of this and pestilence, famine and intempekind; at present we shall producerance, destroy their thousands and ten only a few instances, without regard thousands in the first acts of sin, and to chronology.
many of them perhaps in the possesCalvin, in his Institutions, B. III. sion of a previously moral, if not reliCh. 25, Section 5, having slightly gious character: now, to propose mentioned some of the common argu- that, as a general argument, which ar ments for eternal punishment; as to present applies only to purticular cases, the contrary opinions, only says, is a false and absurd method of
Let us Jeave these trifles, lest we reasoning. Again, under the head should seem to consider such dotages of divine justice, he tells us, “ The as worthy of confutation.". No doubt justice of God, in a future state, is many a zealous Romanist has said inexorable :" but afterwards, that the same, respecting any sentiments “ This vindictive justice, though es. contrary to the peculiar dogmas of his sential to the nature of God, is not coinmunity: nevertheless, of the natural to him, as heat is to the fire, greater part of these, this pious re- though it be necessary that he should former justly thought it necessary to punish sin, because of his righteous enter into the most minute and nature ; yet, not by a natural, or laborious investigation.
physical necessity, aš the fire burns, The Rey. IV. Wisheart, a profound but by a moral, or rational necessity.
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
325 The fire burns, without any influence thor had possessed neither grace, reaof a free and rational principle, but son nor humanity: he closes his rethe Deity is a free agent, and there- marks thus : "the one,” the eternity fore determines the mode, seasons, of happiness,“ being so far beyond degree, and other circumstances of our deserts; the other," the eternity punishment by his sovereign will and of suffering, “ being so infinitely be pleasure. Further, when we say that low our demerits!" What did this God cannot led sin go unpunished, we good man require further, or what do not thereby limit the power of God, could he expect, more than all? but it is the justice and righteousness Sir Kenelm Digby, his annotator, of his own nature that bounds him. expresses upon this occasion a little As he cannot lie or deny himself, so alleviation of sentiment: he tells us, he cannot do any thing unjust, and it that the victim of divine anger, dewould be unjust to let sin go unpu- prived of former criminal enjoyments, nished.”
restless and insatiable, “will neglect These sentiments are strictly just, all other contentments he might have, but utterly inconsistent with the fore- for want of a due taste and relish going assertion : for if we are to argue hating whatsoever good is in his power, upon the grounds of “a moral or and thus pining away a long eterrational necessity,” as to the proceed- nity:" hereby plainly supposing, that ings of the Supreme Being as sovereign there is some real good to be obtained judge in a future world, how does it in that state, if the proper means could thence appear, that his primitive jus- be discovered and adopted. tice will be “inexorable" Or where The luminous author of “ A Genis it said in scripture that it will be tleman's Religion” dismisses this subso? Rather, as his patience and long- ject in a very summary way. “Etersuffering are only, so to speak, branches nal damnation, of which we have fair of his infinite goodness, which is es, warning given us, and may therefore sential to his nature, is it not far more avoid if we please, is as little as can be probable, that these will continue as threatened, and often is but too little to long as that ?—that is, be coeval with keep us back from all manner of sin his being? For, as our author well and wickedness.". Thus taking for observes on the Divine Eternity, “God granted the question proposed, and always is what he was, and always confounding a supposed divine threatwill be what he is!"
ening with its execution; though, to Sir Thomas Brown, in his “ Religio do the author justice, he clearly holds Medici,” treating of future punish- out the difference of degrees. ment according to the high orthodox Richard Baxter, in his Treatise of system of his day, among some exqui- Universal Redemption, or the Suffisite passages, * introduces others which, ciency of the Gospel in itself to save separately considered, might lead a all Mankind, has the following pashasty reader to conclude that the au- sage :-“ All divines that I know,
say that God loveth those in hell, as his “ I thank God, that, with joy I creatures and as men, Aquinas and mention it, I was never afraid of hell, nor
the schoolmen have it frequently ; ever grew pale at its description : I have and many Protestant divines say, that so fixed my contemplation on beaven, tbat he punisheth those in hell short of I have almost forgot the idea of its con- their deserving, and so sheweth some trary, and am afraid rather to lose the mercy there. That I will not meddle joys of the one, than endure the sufferings with.” There might be some reason of the other! To be deprived of them, is for this: the pious and laborious mia perfect hell, and needs, metbinks, no ad- nister was branded as a heretic by dition to complete our affliction! That many of his brethren; and would terrible term hath never detained me from sin, nor do I owe any good action probably have been still farther ad
vanced on the black catalogue had he to the name thereof: I fear God, yet am not afraid of him; his mercies make me
hinted at the possibility of universal ashamed of my sins, before bis judgments restoration. But let us attend to his alarm me for their consegnences. These sentiments in another part of this are but the forced and secondary methods: work, which should be deeply imof his wisdon ; a course rather to deter pressed upon our minds. - If any the wicked, than incite the virtuous to his say that God followerh not the rules service."---Rel. Medie.
of human laws; I answei, He is the VOL. XI.
fountain of all right laves and reason indireci argument against eternal p! and justice. 'Tis an ill pretence for nislument, but only as proving by ihe men to judge their Maker by, when way, that this great divine did not inthey will not allow him that reason- terpret too strictly those texts in Ezeable apology, nor inake that construc- kiel, where it is said that the righteous tion (it bis wars, according to com- shall perish in his present sin, not mon undeniable city, as they will withstanding his former attaisimetits ; do of the ways of iner. Right reason and as proving, most unequivocally, and the laws made therebi, area that, like the favoured disciple, bis beun of God's periect wisdom and soul was so wrapt and absorbed in the justice.
contemplation of the divine charaeter, Jimmy Taylor, that truly Christian as the God of love, and probably, at the bishop, or overseer of souls; himself same time, so shocked, or at least disan host, the llomer allons preachers," mayed, by the common notion of fu. though he appears in general to adopt ture punishment, that he could not the common nations on this subject, allow himself to believe, that any (especially in lois Treatise “ On Man," would prove the victims of this dire, probably ihe only we ik book he ever ineffable doom, but the most fagrant, wrote, and some of the sentiments of enormous and incorrigible transgreswhich, if true, would almost justify sors. This is further evident from the scheme of Anilimpomorphitism,) another passage in the same work, yet, has many pass.ges quite incon- where he tells us that there is “bus sistent with them. In his “ Life of one" individual of the human race, Christ,” treating of temporal judg. Judas Iscariot, of whom we may afmenti, he observes of Ananias and firm, without breach of Christian chaSapphira, Lzzah the prophet slain byrity, that he is “certainly damned :" the lion, and other cases of sudden sure nay, he goes further yet, and says, prisals in the cominission of sinful even of this delinquent, “ his sin acts, where the suflerers were in the stuck cluse, and it is thought to a sad muin upright characters, that " We eternity." But we do not insist upon uust not conclude such person: pe- this latter passage; the good bishop rishing and miserable to all eternity; often indulges in a laxity of phrase it were a sad sentence to think God common in his day, but which the would not impate the untimely death literary taste of the present times, sufor? punishinent great enough to that perior in this respect, will not admit deliexion from duty, and judge the of. The foregoing sentiment, how. min according to the constant tenor is delivered in plain and decided of his former lie; unless the act were terms : let us attend, for a moineut, to of malice enough to outweigh the the singulur idea, and to the instruction former habits, and interrupt the whole which it may attord us. state of acceptation and grace. For as If Christian charity will not allow God takes off our sins and punish- us to aflirm that any man but Judas ments liy puris, remitting to some the Iscariot is “ certainly dumned," it most sentence of death, and inflicting only assuredly will not require us to believe, the fine of a temporal loss, or the gen- on the other hand, that every man tle scourge of a lesser sickness; so also, besides bim is certainly saved : taking he lay it on ly parts and suitable pro- salvation in the common sense of the portions; and every transgression and word, for the state of happiness immelesser deviation from duty does not diately succeeding the general judg: drag the soul to death eternal; but he ment. This would be enthusiasm, and suffers our repentance, though imper- not charity, or charity carried 10 a feet, to have an imperfect effect, degree of enthusiasm.* We cannot knocking off the feiter, by degrees, doubt, froin the history of the world leading ns in some cases 10 ihe council, and our own experience, --happy if in soine to judgment, and in some to we have no reason to fear it respecting hell-jira; but it is not always certain, ourselves that many go out of life that he wbo is led to the prison doors, ' utterly unfit, as far as appears, without shall ihre lie entombed, and a man considerable degree of purification, for may by jud ment be brought to the the Christian heaven ; judging, not gates of hell, and yet those gates shall not prevail against him."
" Enthusiastic doctrinese-good things This passage is not cited as any strained out of their wits." Thichcote.
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Purshment.
from the manner of their death, which, of nothing at all. Who can tell, then, of all the extravagancies of theologi- whether i he punishment of the wicked cal dreamers, is one of the inost strange may not lead them into a kind of and unaccountable, but from the man- phrinzy and madness? Thus they ner of their life. Now, how are we may indeed be very miserable, and to determine between these two c.r- become a sad spectacle to others; they tremes? If, according to the reasoning may be sensibie of their misery also, of this profound writer, we should and strive ugainst it with all their form such exalted ideas of the divine power; but while they do not observe benignity, in a general view, as exercised or believe that it is founded in perverse in the character of Supreme Judge; election, they may hug the musches in the how is it conceivable, that, after the cause, the effects of which they abhor ; fiture awards of his justice, this benig-being still wise in their own opinion, nity, as to the objects of it, should be and, as it were, pleasing themselves in eternally suspendeu?
their misery." It is dificult to ascertain precisely, Thus, the more they labour under what were the sentiments of Arch- it, the more they embrace the cause of bishop King upon this important sub- it
, and thereby become their oun hinject. In the Appendix to his Treatise drance from ever getting free; and will on “ The Origin of Evil,” a work no suffer themselves to be any thing but abounding with many weighty truths, what they are. This we see daily done he adopts, in a great measure, the by mad and frantic per-ons, and reckon orthodox notion, and endeavours to it a part of their unhappiness. The obviate some of the arguments against divine goodness, there ore, is not to it in the usual way :-such as the suf- be charged with crulty for letting them ferings of the danned iending to enhance continue in that existence, though it the blessedness of glorified saints, by be very miserable, when they themway of comparison and contemplation; selves will not here it renoved; or, for a sentiment which, as applicable to the not altering their condition, which they adequate and limited suffering of trans- utterly refuse to have altered. "Tis beigressors in a future state, may be allow- ter indeed for them not to be; but ed to have some weight; but which, if this, in the opinion only of wise men, applied to the doctrine of strictly eter- to which they do not assen!; for they ral punishment, confutes itself. The · indulge themselves in their obstinate eternity of this state, however, he ob- election, and though every where surserves, is not a doctrine of reason, but rounded and oppressed with wocs, of pure revelation. " It appears from yet will they not alter what they have the light of nature that there shall be once embraced, and had rather endure future punishments, but not that they all than repent: as men that are desshall be eternal.” He further informis parately in love, ambitious, envious, us, that they “ do not proceed from choose to bear tormenis, loss of estate, the vengeance, but from the goodness of and hazard of life, rather than lay the Deity;" and then proceeds to aside these foolish and bewitching offer some opinions which seem to be affections. We may easily conceive, peculiarly his own :
then, how the wicked in hell may be "As to another objection, the mat- in very great misery, upon the inter is still in debatę, whether it were crease of their obstinacy and folly, and better to be miserable than not to be at yet unwilling to be freed from them.” all; and there are arguments on both The reader will make his own comsides. 'Tis manifest, indeed, that ment upon these passages, and more those evils which overbalance the de- of the same kind, in the original: for sire and happiness of life, commonly she writer's part, he professe's only to put an end to life itself; and that such regard them as constituting an inertriobjects as are hurtful to the sense, at calle labyrinth, from which, it is prolength destroy it. The same seems to bable, he should not readily escape, hold good in thinking substances, viz. and into which he hath ce:tainly no those things which atiect the mind to inclination to enter: he has, therefore, a higher degree than it can bear, may only to observe, that awful instances in like manner put an end to it: for of the prevalence of evil habits in the they may be supposed either to drive present life, can furnish no criie ion us to madness; or so far to disorder the as to their influence in the next, where thinking faculty, as to make us think all the objects of sinful gratification