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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 let 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,
şay 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 i ever grew pale at its description : I bave and many Protestant divines say, that so fixed my contemplation on heaven, that 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, meihinks, no ad- nister was branded as a heretic by dition to cotoplete our affliction! That
many of his brethren; and would terrible term hath never detained ne probably have been still farther adfrom sin, nor do I owe any good action vanced on the black catalogue had he to the name thereof: I fear God, yet am hinted at the possibility of universal not afraid of him; his mercies make me ashamed of my sins, before his judgments restoration. But let us attend to his alarm me for their conseqnences. These sentiments in another part of this are but the forced and secondary methods work, which should be deeply imof his wisdons ; a course rather to deter pressed upon our minds.. the wicked, than incite the virtuous to his say that God followeth not the rules. service."---Rel. Medie.
of human lawa'; I answei, He is the VOL. XI.
fountain of all right laws and reason indirect argument against eternal p!e« and justice. 'Tis an ill pretence for nislument, but only as proving by the nen to judge their Maher by, when way, that this great divine did not inthey will not allow him thai reuson- terpret too strictly those texts in Ezeable apology, nor make that construc- kiel, where it is said that the righteous tion of his will's, according to conn- shall periske in his present sin, not nion undeniable capital, as they will witlistanding liis former attainments ; do of the wars of inen. Bight reuson and as proving, most unequivocally, and the laws wade threreb, are a that, like the favoured disciple, bis bran of God's periect wisdom and soul was so wrapt and absorbed in the justice.
contemplation of the divine character, Jerry Taylor, that truly Christian as the God of love, and probably, at the bishop, or overseer of souls, “ himself same time, so shorkel, or at least disan host, the llomer among preachers," mayed, by the common notion of fu. though he appears in general to arlopt ture punishment, that he could not the common notions on this subject, allow himself to believe, that any (especially in luis Treatise “ On Man," would prove the victims of this dire, probably the only weak book he ever inefable doom, but the most flagrant, 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 Anthropomorphitism,) another pa-sage in the same work, yet, has many passages quite incon- where be telis 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, L'zrah the prophet slain byrity, that he is “ certainly damned :" the lion, and other citse: of sudden surs nav, he goes farther yet, and says, prisals in the cominission of sinful even of this delinquent, “ his sin acts, where the sullerers were in the stuck close, and it is thought 10 a sad main upright characters, that “ We eternity." But we do not insist upon must not conclude such persons pe- this latter passage; the good bishop rishing and mi-erable 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 impute the untimely death literary taste of the present times, sufor? punishment great enough to that perior in this respect, will not admit defiexion from duty, and judge the of. The foregoing sentiment, how. mun according to the constani tenor ever, is delivered in plain and decided of his former liter; linless the act were terms : let us attend, for a moment, to of malice erong!? to outweigh the the singulur idea, and to the instruction former habits, and interrupt the whole which it niay attord us. state of acceptation and grace. For as If Christian charity will not allow God takes off our sins and punish- us to atlirm that any man but Judas ments liy parts, remitting to some thc Iscariot is “ certainly dumned," it most senitencc 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 lays it on by 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 inent. This would be enthusiasm, and suffers our repentance, though imper- not charity, or charity carried to a fect, to have an imperfect effect, degree of enthusiasm. We cannot krocking off the fetter, by degrees, doubt, froin the history of the world leading ns in some cases to 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-tire ; but it is not always certain, ourselves !--that many go out of life, that he who is led to the prison doors utterly unfit, as far as appears, without shall there lie entombed, and a man considerahle degree of purification, for may by judgment be brought to the the Christian heaven ; judging, not gites of hell, and yet those gates shall not prevail against him."
« Enthusiastic doctrines---good things This passage is not cited as any strained out of their wits." Whichcate.
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 shall be done away, where "hell is of its principal characteristics ;' and be open before them, and destruction hath no utterly unable, in this view, either to covering !" that we shall search in vain understand it ourselves, or to preach for this system of insanity in the Bible; or explain it to others, and conseand that we should receive with cau- quently unable, thus far, to believe it; tion some of the opinions of an author, since we can believe nothing which however learned and pious, who could we do not, in some measure, apprehend: conclude his elaborate and justly ce- and this, in a question involving our lebrated work, in the following man- ideas of the moral attributes of the ner:
Deity, is a circumstance of prodigious “But I offer all these things to the importance. This is not a matter of censure of the learned : I submit thein mere abstract speculation, as to which entirely to the judgment of the Catho- it is of little consequence on which lic church, especially to the governors side the truth lies:-doubtfulness, in of those parts of it, which constitute such a case, is death! the churches of England and Ireland. But it will be said, alas! what can If there be any thing herein which we know of the extent of the divine seems not perfectly agreeable to their plans and operations in a future state ? faith, as I hope there is not, and would i. Who can by searching find out God, not have it; I desire' that may be who can find out the Almighty to looked upon as absolutely unsaid and perfection?" Shall the Omnipotent retracted !"
he arraigned at the bar of a worm? The only prose divine remaining, Shall the delinquent sit in judgment whose sentiments upon this subject upon the Judge himself? These obwe shall briefly consider, is the pious, jections are plausible, and the sentilearned and candid Dr. Doddridge. ments themselves founded in truth; In his Theological Lectures, Prop. 163, but they do not altogether apply in Ed. 1776, he proposes the question the present case. We are not to rewith great fairness and impartiality. nounce our understandings in the We cannot enter into all the argu- contemplation of subjects in which ments he has produced on both sides, we are so deeply interested, under a which would be to repeat much of false notion of humility and self-abasewhat hath already been offered : our " We may have true concepinquiry here is only respecting his tions of God, though not full and consistency.
adequate conceptions."* He acknowledges that “We cannot For be it recollected, that in all our pretend to decide, à priori, or previous reasonings concerning the Deity, we to the event, so far as to say, that the can reason only as to his perfections punishments of hell must and will cer- and attributes; of his abstract nature tainly be eternal;” but gives it as his and essence, we can, at present, know opinion, on a review of the arguinents, nothing: and moreover, that if the “That there is at least so much forceon ideas of those perfections which we the affirmative side of the question, and derive froin his works and his word, in the solution of the preceding objec- should be supposed to deceive us, there tions, as to render it both imprudent are no others to be had: we must begin and unsafe to go out of the way of anew, and launch out into a fathomscripture upon this head; or to ex- less ocean, without a pilot, without a plain those expressions in such a man- helm, and probably without a shore ! ner, as positively to determine that But it has long been determined as future eternal punishments, in strict the only legitimate criterion we have propriety of speech, are not to be ap- whereby to regulate our notions of the prehended."
Divine Being, to consider the highest Now there is evidently a chasm in perfections of created natures, to subthis way of reasoning : for if we can- tract every thing imperfect from them, not decide that eternal punishments and then to add infinitude to those will take place; and must not be per- ideas : “ It would, indeed, be a high suaded or express our conviction,- presumption to determine, whether that is, according to our conceptions the Supreme Being has not many of things,--that they will not; we more attributes than those which must remain all our lives in a state enter into our conceptions of him ; of tortuous suspense as to one of the leading motives of the gospel, in one
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
329 but it is impossible that we should sidered, we know that it extends to have any ideas of any kind of perfec- every object of power—to every thing tion, except those of which we have that doth not imply a contradiction some small ravs, and short, imperfect and yet, we may be more than morally strokes in ourselves."* “It is foolish,” certain, that there are many things says Archbishop Tillotson, " for any simply possible, which the Deity will man to pretend that he cannot know never bring to pass : as, for instance, what justice, and goodness, and truth, to create a world in one instant and dein God are; for if we do not know stroy it the nert; because this would this, it is all one to us, whether God be, according to all our notions, a cabe good or not, nor could we imitate pricious act, a mark of imperfection, his goodness; for he that imitates, en- and of the creature, and therefore den ours to be like something that he not to be predicated of the Divinity; knows, and must have come idea of all whose ätıributes are in perfect unithat to which he aims to be like: so son, and who cannot for a moment that if we had no certain and settled be supposed to magnify his power at notion of the justice, goodness and the expense of his wisdom and goodtruth of God, he would be altog ther ness. an unintelligible Being, and religion, But this pious and benevolent diwhich consists in the imitation of him, vinc (Dr. Diddridge), when emancibe utterly impossible."
pated from the trammels of system, : Thus it is plain, that though we and attending to the silent operations cannot comprehend the extent and of his own sublime and capacious mode of operation of the divine attri- mind, could give his opinion decidedly butes,- for how can finite comprehend enough on this point.' Thus, though infinite?-yet, we have a sufficient he seems in one place to adopt the idea of the attributes themselves, that common notion, that “ the punishis, of those which relate to us, and of ment of the damned may be an intheir nature and properties of what, structive spectacle to glorified saints ;'* upon the whole, appear to be consistent yet he asks, Prop. 45, “ How can the or inconsistent therewith: and that, view or experience of misery be necesalthough it would be highly improper sary to give a virtuous being a inore and irreverend to say, with some weak exquisite relish of happiness ?" Again, persons, if such a thing take place, he observes, that "if it appear the God must be so and so; or, if such a scriptures declare the eternity of future thing be true," then you may burn punishment, these considerations may your Bibles," &c.-yei there is no serve to lalance the difficulties arising irreverence at all in saying, such or from principles of the light of nature. such a thing is absolutely inconsistent Yet, in Prop. 95, on the internal eviwith all our ideas of the divine per- depces of a divine revelation, he tells fections, and utterly impossible if those us, “ We may be sure such a revelaideas be founded in truth. Thus we tion can contain nothing apparently have clear ideas of the divine benignity contrary to the light of nature, beand power; and if we take these attri- cause that is the law of God, and he is butes in connexion, may easily con- too wise and too faithful to contradict ceive, that the Almighty could instantly himself." Then, as to what this light and for ever annihilate all sin and suf- of nature rcally teaches concerning this fering, and make his moral creation doctrine, he observes, Prop. 82, that, universally holy and happy; but we “ As for eternal punishments, ihough know, that though sueh a process, this some of the Heathen did assert them, holiness by infiur, might indeed ren, and many have undertaken to infer der intelligent beings happy, it could them from natural principles; yet it never constituite them-worthy of praise; seems that our natural apprehensions and that, therefore, this desirable would rather encourage us to hope event must be brought about by the that the Deiiy would leave some room co-operation of their own powers, in for amendment and recovery of happiness order to render it consistent with his in a future state; or, by annihilation, wisdom and justice, as well as with his put an end to men's misery, when they holiness. Again, with respect to the appeared hum!led by their punishment." attribute of infinite power, simply con- An argument, surely, for annihilation,
of all others the most inconclusive! Addison.
He afterwards proceeds to consider