« AnteriorContinua »
him into judgment ? No;—could he constantly behold, how the flames of his future dwelling brighten up with more fervid heat and horrid glare on every new act of disobedience, it would destroy his unlawful pleasures. The laughter of sin is thoughtless. It is only when God is forgotten, or his word uncredited, that iniquity is pleasant. Let the heart, then, prompt the memory, and the memory remind the heart, that for every secret thing God will bring thee into judgment—that for every new
— act of rebellion, justice will demand reprisal.
THE DURATION OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT.
Mark ix. 47, 48.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out : it is
: better for thee, to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire ; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
The present lecture is devoted to the question at issue between believers in eternal punishment, and those who expect the restoration of the wicked to virtue and happiness. They admit, that a part of mankind will be condemned to a place of torment, but suppose that there is a limit to their sufferings, that in the progress of ages the period will arrive, when having repented, or having expiated their crimes by an adequate punishment, they will be restored to divine favor. I cannot subscribe to their opinion. The bible is full and explicit in declaring, that the state of the wicked in another world is unalterably fixed. Before the proof of this is presented, it is desirable to notice several things, which are often overlooked in the controversy.
1. The supposition, that the wicked, when once condemned, will ever be reprieved, is altogether gratuitous. All the passages, which speak of their punishment, leave the question of its duration untouched, or represent it to be eternal. Nothing is implied in them, like the doctrine of restoration. They either assert, that all men are saved on the same terms and at the same time, or they do not teach universal salvation in any form. It cannot, therefore, be pretended, that the views, which we are opposing, have any support in the sacred scriptures. It is true, that formerly a passage in the third chapter of the Acts of the apostles, and another in the first Epistle of Peter, were mentioned as favoring such a supposition, but the idea is now generally abandoned. It certainly cannot be sustained. In one of these, it is declared, that heaven must receive the Lord Jesus Christ until the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mou
of all his holy prophets, since the world
began. But it is now admitted, that this restitution, signifies the final accomplishment of the divine predictions. When, whatever has been foretold by the prophets is fulfilled, the Lord will make his second advent and close up the history of this world. In the other
passage, it has been supposed, that the apostle spake of our Lord's visiting the abodes of the damned, and proclaiming to them the offers of salvation. “By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God, waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” By joining this with the preceding verse, and observing the sense of each part, this only will appear to be taught, that Christ, who existed in his spiritual nature in the time of Noah, went in that nature and preached unto the antediluvians, who then lived, but are now in prison. For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, (that is as respects his human nature) but quickened by the spirit (that is, as respects his spiritual nature) in which spiritual nature he also
testimony from Him, or by the want of contrary testimony, the doctrine of eternal punishment has gained the almost undivided conviction of mankind. It has been believed by millions, in every age, and has had a forming hand in their lines of conduct and feeling. Is this a superstition? Can it be supposed, that God has left a being so imaginative as man, to shudder at ideal forms of distress, and to array with withering apprehensions, a doctrine, which teaches nothing but fatherly corrections or momentary reproof ? Let it not be forgotten, that one text, well authenticated, declaring that the wicked shall suffer only for a season, would have effectually excluded the doctrine of eternal punishment from the christian creed. But there nevertheless it stands, and influences unnumbered minds; it alarms, it convicts, it urges men to let go of earth, to dash down the cup of iniquity, to press into life. It must be recollected too, that human predilections are not in its favor. Men have been led to believe, in despite of their wishes. It has had opposers; it has been hated, defamed, persecuted from city to city, and handed about with hissing and invective. Still, the body of those who call