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Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
469 Tveit soft ethereal warmth, and there to nius. He travsports us to regions pine,
beyond the stars, elerates us to the emTumoreable, ingxed, and frozen round
pyrean heaven, or plunges us into the Periods of time; thence hurried back to unfathomable abyss! In his “ L'nifire!"
versal Passion," he glances at the sentíNow, however we may be trans- nents of Origen, Tillotson, and others, ported, as we ought to be, by these respecting future punishment, and is magical sounds, we should not sutter much too ludicrous to quote in this them to bereave us of our understand place, for the reasons jusi mentioned. ings. It is certain, that if they had Whenever writers have recourse to been composed by a Hume or a Voltaire, jesting and sneering, in opposing any instead of a pious Christian poét, they religious opinions, it is a shrewd sign would have been deemed a species of that they have either a weak head or a solemn bomlost, and as intended to ri- weak argument. The former circamdicule and expose the doctrine of future stance no one will think of applying to punishment altogether. It is well, if Dr. YoungBut-perhaps we forget, they may not have frequently produced in this particular case, that this effect, though nothing was farther of fame" is “ a satire,"t. from the design of the pious author, in In his poem on “ The Last Day," the minds of superficial persons the she authorappears to be serious throughmoral instruction lying far too deep for out. And here, if any where, one commou observation. We shall not would naturally have expected, from so enter into particulars, as one would great a reasoner, a series of irrefragable wish to avoid every thing ludicrous in arguments in proof of the doctrine a serious discussion': one thing is ob- which he appears to espouse : and invious that the writer who could give deed he gives us arguments enough, so great a scope to his imagination, but they are all on the other side of and introduce so many lenient circumstances into the supposed state of pu. • “ With all his faults, Young was a nishment of fallen angels, could not man of genius, and a poet."'-possibly believe in the doctrine of un
DR. JohxsON. gemitting torments, which here, indeed, + Nothing can justify the mixture of he expressly contradicts; por, probably, frivolity, either in opposing what we deem even in that of the eternal duration of religious errors, or in recommending and future punishment, though limited in enforcing religious truths and duties. In degree. Perhaps these very passages the Bible, we have instances of the severest might be intended covertly to insinuate itony and sarcasm, but nothing like bufthe contrary. Reasoning from analogy, foonry; and even these allowed instruments and dreadful hell, for impenitent rebels that we are neither prophets nor apostles ; he could not suppose a more tremendous should be employed by us, with the greatest
circumspection. It should be recollected, of the race of Adam, than for apostate and although thưy, in general, and the spirits; and moreover, that in this view, great Author of our religion, at all times, he is to be read with great latitude of had an intuitive knowledge and perception interpretation, and a due regard to the of mental error, yet, they seldom apply the poetic license, even when he appears to severity of rebuke in this particular case, be the most serious. That admired but chiefly in cases of enormous moral de passage, in his description of Hell, linquency, such as idolatry, hypocrisy, a ** Hope nerer comes, that comes to persecuting spirit, carelessness, presumpall," is, in itself, equivocal, and would cion, and obstinate infidelity. We should have been so regarded in the mouth of reflect, that no honest mind embraces error, an heathen oracle. The poet might as such, but, under the semblance of truth mean no more, than that “ Hope never and that they, who think themselvet comes" to some for a long period,
“ strong, ought to bear the infirinities of
the weak." “ which comes to all' at last ; for, as
In enforcing the truths of religion, we he tells us in the 2d buok :
have some eminent preachers who grievously "Neither do the spirits damned, offend in this way. Where this arises from Lose all their rirtue !"
an idiosyncracy, or is the effect of consti
tation, and counterbalanced by a thousand Dr. Young is, perhaps, scarcely infe useful and valuable qualities, it must be rior to Milion, either as a poet or as borne with, as men never get çotirely rid a Jivine, alluding here chiefly to his of their natural tempers; but let the practical divinity and his poetical ge- bumble imitators beware!
the question. Let the impartial reader Push into being--a reverse of Thee, judge. It will be necessary, for the And animate a clod with misery! sake of those who may not have the book at hand, to cite a few passages, As our dire punishment, for ever strong, and then offer some remarks on the se
Our constitution too, for ever young, veral parts,
Curs'd with returns of vigour still the same, The following are the sentiments Pow'rful to bear, and satisfy the flame; which the victims of divine anger are
Still to be caught, and still to be pursued, supposed to utter, in the state of future To perish still, and still to be renewed !
And this my King! my God! at thy decree, punishment.
Nature is chang'd, and Hell should succOHT “Who burst the barriers of my peaceful grave?
And canst Thou, then, look down from peta Ah! cruel Death, that would no longer fect bliss,
And see me plunging in the dark abyss ; But grudg'd me e'en that narrow dark Calling Thee Father ! in a sea of fire ; abode,
Or pouring blasphemies, at Thy desire ? And cast me out, into the wrath of God! With mortals' anguish, wilt Thou raise Thy
name, Must all these pow'rs, Heav'n gave me to And by my pangs, Omnipotence proclaim: supply
Call back Thy thunders, Lord! hold in thy My soul with pleasure, and bring in my joy,
rage, Rise up in arms against me, join the foe, Nor, with a speck of wretchedness, engage; Sense, reason, memory, increase my woe? Forget me quite, nor stoop a worm to blame, And shall my voice, ordain'd on hymns to But lose me, in the greatuess of Thy name. dwell,
Thou art all love, all meroy, all divine, Corrupt to groans, and blow the fires of And sball I make those glories cease to Hell?
shine ? What, no reprieve, no least indulgence Shall sinful man grow great by his offence, giv'n,
And from its course, turn back Omni. No beam of hope from any point of Hear'n? potence ? Ah ! mercy, mercy, art thou dead above? : Forbid it, and ob! grant, great God, at least, Iš love extinguish'd in the Source of love? This one, this siender, almost no request Bold that I am,-did Hear'n stoop down When I have wept a thousand lives away; * to Hell,
When torment is grown weary of its prey ; Th' expiriog Lord of Life my ransom seal? When I have rar'd ten thousand years in Have I not been industrions to provoke, From his embraces obstinately broke ? Ten thousand thousands, let me then, Pursu'd and panted for his mortal hate,
expire ! Earn’d my destruction, labour'd for my Deep anguish! but too latc—the bopeless fate;
soul, And dare I, on extinguish'd love exclaim? Bound to the bottom of the burning pool, Take, take full vengeance, rouse the To toss, to wreathe, to pant beneath his load, slack’ning flame;
And bear the weight of an offended God!" Just is my lot-but, oh! must it transcend The reach of time ? despair a distant end!
This is evidently the high Drexelian With dreadful growth shoot forward and system, in irreproveable poetry. It is arise,
essentially different from Milton's Hell, Where thought can't follow, and bold fancy and, perhaps, on that account, the more dies!
consistent. Here are no lenitives, or Never ! —where falls the soul at that dread occasional diversions; no “ dulcet harsound!
mony of sound;" no gymnastic exerDown an abyss, how dark and how pro cises ; no disputations, rational or irrafound!
tional, wise or vain, to recreate and Down, down I still am falling; horrid pain! calm their perturbed spirits; nor, as far Ten thousand, thousand fathom still re
as appears, any discrimination of chamain ! My plunge still but begun—and this
for sin ? and the transgressor of slender age,
racter :--but the antediluvian sinner, Could I offend, if I had never been? But still increas'd the senseless happy mass, and who, in an unguarded moment,
who has but just looked into existence, Flow'd in the stream, or flourish'd in the grass;
hath unwittingly slipped through the Father of mercies! why, from silent earth, first hidden snare, on the fatal bridge Didst Thou awake, and curse me into birth of human life; the wicked servant,
Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night; who shall be beaten “ with many And make a thankless present of Thy light stripes," and the ignorant servant, who
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment.
465 shall be beaten " with few;" are all This, however, is mere assertion, withconsigned together, in one undistin- out the possibility of a proof. guished mass, to never-ending tor- Metaphysical writers soinetimes reaments! Such a representation of things son and subtilize as to the immutability can be neither true nor wholesome of the Deity, till, from their zeal in the last cited text, in full unison with avoid anthropomorphidism, they appear, the dictates of nature, proves its falsity; as it were, almost to divest him of sonand what is not true can never be use-sations: and though neither this term, ful. Such a scheme may amaze and or any others that we know of, are terrify, but can never satisfy and con- adequate to the description of his matchvince. To believe a thing, is to be per- less and adorable excellencies, yet, suaded of it, and to be able to give some having no better, we must be content solid reasons for such a belief. That to employ them. Now the immutabiwhich hath no hold on the under- lity of the Deity is the unchangeableness standing, can work no conviction on of all his perfections: “ one divine at: the heart.
tribute is not exercised to the prejudice But, let us briefly examine the pleus, or wrong of another."* As he is infiwhich the victim of eternal wrath is nitely holy and just, so he is also inhere supposed to urre, in the midst of finitely gracious and merciful; and his sufferings. We shall pass over there is the same proportion of infinite those passages which justly and awfully to infinite, as of one to one. His mercy display the self-accusations of the hi- cannot impede his justice, nor can his therto impenitent transgressor: they justice obsiruct or diminish the exercise need no comment. “It is a fearful of his mercy, only with this distinction, thing to fall into the hands of the living that " mercy is his darling attribute, Godi!" when manifested as a God of and judgment his strange work," and judgment, and when his mercy and that in many cases, mercy rejoiceth loving kindness, as to individuals, shall against judgment." appear for a season to be suspended ! Moreover, this unchangeableness of The pleas, here supposed to be urged, the Deity is consistent with infinite vaarise from the consideration of the riety : “ As, therefore, God is present striet eternity of punishment, repre- every where, knows and perceives sented in different views.
every thing, he must be supposed also, “What, no reprieve, no least indulgence prehensions, to feel every where for all
in a way infinitely superior to our comgivin, No beam of hope from any point of Heav'n? his creaturas."7 The immutability of Ab! mercy, mercy, art thou dead abore,
God, is, therefore, so far from implying Is love extinguishı'd in the Source of the eternity of future punishment, thai, love?"
as we have formerly observed of his
power, it rather implies the contrary, This is a rery important question, , The poet goes on to represent the and, upon the supposition of elernal sinner, as checking hiinself in the panishment, absolutely unanswerable. midst of these reflections, magnifying It is not a mere difficulty, but an in- the former mercy and forbearance of superable oljection. If individuals shall the Almighty, and endeavouring to resutfer stricily to all eternity, then divine concile his present dealings with him, mercy, as to thein, is for ever dead, and to his own conceptions of his moral love extinguished in its original source. character and government. Yet, still The very supposition appears to be the plea is repeared-must his punishprofane.
ment" transcend the reach of time," But, says the advocate of this opinion, and shoot forward beyond the limits of we allow that the divine goodness and thought and imagination? In this mercy are, in themselves, always the view he proceeds to nrge, that it would same, that is, in their essence and nature, have been far more merciful in the but eternally restrained in their exercise, Deity not to have given him existence, in this particular case. The unchange- which, if succeeded by eternal suffering. ableness of the Deity is an everlasting would render all the blessings of his prior bar to any change in their state: “ be- state a nullity, und " a curse," and the cause God is eternal, therefore the ior- light of Heaven “a thankless present," ments of the damned are so also. which would be for the Almighty not • Wisheart.
• Wisheart. + Hartley
only to * animate a clod with misery," many records of both which we meet but, as it were, to “ push into being a with in books; and where, frequently, reverse of himself !" "What are we to the superstition, ignorance, or bigotry think of a doctrine, which necessarily of the priest, the overweening kinde involves such consequences ? But let ness of the by-standers, the mental us proceed.
inbecility of the dinick, and the The following lines exceed, perhaps, fames of deleterious medicines, may in horror, any thing that ever was all conspire to produce an unreasonwritten :
*able confidence, or an unreasonable " And this my belp! my God! at tlny de- despondency. In the parable of Dives cree,
and Lazarus, which, besides its princiNature is chang'd, and Hell should succour pal object, that of inculcating the folly
of expecting new revelations, may be The sentiment, in plain prose, is this partly intended to designale somewhat -The founditions are out of course; the of future punishment, we meet with ideas which we have been led to form nothing but patient suffering and in yonder world, of the divine character supplication. But if it be said, that, and government, are rooted in error;
from the nature of the human mind, and we must appeal (horrendum dictu!) contumely,
in these circumstances, from the justice of Heaven to the jus. must at length arise; or, in the tice of Hell!
tremendous language of the poet, that But we may be certain that the the sinner will continue to " pour out victim of divine justice, in any period blasphemies at the desire of his of his existence, will never be able to Maker!" then, this is an irrefragable urge such a profane plea as this. “Is argument against the proper eternity God unrighteous? How then shall God of such a state, (heretofore fully disjudge the world? He is the rock, his cussed,), as utterly inconsistent with work is perfect, for all his ways are
all our ideas of the majesty, holiness, judgment: a God of truth, and without and glory of God. iniquity, just and right is he: and
The same ideas are afterwards purthough clouds and darkness are round sued, in language, which, had it not about him, yet righteousness and judg- proceeded from a privileged writer, ment are the foundations of his throne." might, under some political adminis
The succeeding lines, describe the trations, have been thought worthy of ever blessed Deity as an infinite Tor- a little uholesome correction; and may mentor, (thus confounding vengeance
be considered, even by candid minds, with justice,) looking down from his as tending, in itself, rather to pronote seat of " perfect bliss," and proclaiin. irreligion and profaneness, than the ing his own “ omnipotence; " at the contrary, though nothing could have expense of the pangs and anguish of been farther from the mind of the a feeble mortal,' a speck of wretch- pious author. edness!”
“ Thou art all love, all mercy, alt divine, " Calling Thee Father! in a sea of fire; And shall I make those glories cease to Or pouring blasphemies, at Thy desire !"
shine ? The first line implies penitence, Shall sinful man grow great by his offence, which the advocates of this system, in And from its course, turn back Omnigeneral, deny, but which the poet is
potence ?” bere constrained to admit of. The The proper answer is certainly not. other implies contumely, which, on This is impossible. What proves too the part of the transgressor, in a state much, proves nothing: of future punishment, seems to be The only reply which the poet and highly improbable.
divine condescends to give to these Contumely, as regarding our Creator, objections against the doctrine which in the present life, springs from abso- he appears to espouse, is, that derived lute, or partial infidelity. The greatest from the sovereignty of the judge, and sinner
upon earth, when sensible of a the supposed certainty of the doctrine present Deity, was never contumeli- itself : the latter is begging the quesous. We can draw no rules of judg- tim, and, as we have seen, incapable ment in this case, from the agitations of proof, à priori, by the confession of or triumphs of a death-bed repentance, its professed advocates. The forner, or the rarings of a death-bed despair, though a legitimate argument in itself
Inconsistencies of Writers on Future Punishment. strictly applicable in many cases, and the contrary, is far more probable.' especially to the plans and operations There is evidently a climax here emof divine wisdomn, in nature and provi- ployedpain and death, not the dence, of which we are not competent threat only, but the inflictim--for we judges; yet, is not to be urged by experience them both these, save : itself, in this particular case, since, as that is they are instruments in the we have before endeavoured to illus- divine hand, for the most important trate, and as it hath been often shewn and salutary purposes. But, they do from reason and scripture, the Deity not save, all: therefore, a wise and in the exercise of this attribute, acis gracious Creator, who originally deby known and established rules, and signed his rational offspring, for hap" will do nothing, hy his right of piness and for himself, must have sovereignty, but what is unquestion- other means, salutary and medicinal, ably agrecable with the other persec. in future worlds, to accomplish his tions of his nature."
benevolent purposes ; and in this Further remarks might be made view, Gehenna, or the punishments of upon those passages of Dr. Young, the invisible state, will be instrumenwhich the reader's judgment will tal, under the same divine direction, supply: and, upon the whole, we of producing those necessary moral have reason to conclude, that the qualifications, and that alteration of admired author was ashamed of the character, in another period of existe popular systein of future punishment, ence, which the foriner failed of and adopted this method of secretly accomplishing in the present. exposing it, apprehending, perhaps, But whatever were the real sentie' that the times in which he lived, were ments of this great writer, of one not ripe enough for a more open con-' thing we may be certain : that, as all fession. How far this was consistent the attributes of the Deity, are coeval with Christian simplicity, is a question with his Being, and cannot be sepawhich we do not now enter into; but,' rated from it; so, they will continue surely, had he firmly believed it, he to be exercised throughout everlasting would never have taken such pains, ages. As he has been from all in reality, if not in appearance, to eternity, infinitely wise, powerful, demonstrate the contrary, and, in holy, just, and benevolent; so, he immortal strains, to perpetuate the will be to all eternity the same, in glaring defects of his own system! every part and period of his universal
If this be thought a hasty and un- dominion. “If I ascend up to hea-' warrantable conclusion, let the poet ren, thou art there'!" of this, there speak for himself, in other parts of can be no doubt : but, are heaven and his great work, the “Night Thoughts," earth alone the spheres of thy divine one specimen of which shall here activity? by no means. “If I make suffice.
my bed in hell," or, in the invisible “Who, without pain's advice, would e'er state of punishment, “behold thou be good ?
art there also !" Thou art there, as Who, without death, bat would be good in an avenger of the impious, as a vain ?
* punisher of the incorrigible transgressPaio, it to save from pain; all punishment, or. But, in what sense, great God! To make for peace; and death, to save from ' art thou an avenger, or a punisher? death:
Is it to seal them up under a sentence And second death, to guard immortal life! of misery, commensurate with thine By the same tenderness divine ordain'd, own existence, without any possibility That plauted Eden, and high bloom'd for of restitution and recovery? Are they wan,
prevented from repenting, by an act A fairer Eden, endless in the skies !
of thy sovereign will, or wilt thou Great Source of Good alone, bow kind in
never accept of their repentance? Hast all! In vengeance kind! Pain, death, Ge
thou appointed them to be monuments henna save ***
of thive infinite power, trophies of
thine everlasting vengeance, or, pero . It will be said, the poet only meant, petual arguments of happiness to the shat the threat of Gehenna saved: but saints in glory! Where were then,
the exercise of thy mercy and benevus • Wisbeart.
lence, which thou hasi taught us to