« AnteriorContinua »
creation and subsequent annihilation. The Bible assures us, that He "hath made all things for himself." Prov. 16. 4. But if annihilation would be a display of the power and justice of God, in relation to sinners, surely, their eternal punishment will be a much brighter illustration of these infinite perfections. In this case, the universe will eternally behold the unlimited evil of sin-the infinite opposition of God to it; and see the glory of His vindictive justice displayed on the guilty. Sinners are said to be "vessels of wrath;" but this expression would have very little meaning, if they were to be annihilated. The power and justice of God, will be far more conspicuous in supporting their existence in a state of punishment, than they would be in reducing them to their primitive non-entity. Annihilation is but a faint manifestation of the evil of sinning against God, when compared with endless sufferings. There is no need of taking away the being of sinners; for if no good end could be answered by their eternal misery, God could easily renew their minds, pardon their transgressions, and fit them for endless glory. Some of the greatest sinners have been saved by the power and grace of God. Such were Manasseh, the thief on the cross, and others who could be mentioned. Thus we see that one of these great sinners was regenerated and pardoned in his last moments, and in his dying agonies. Men were not created to be annihilated, but to display the justice and mercy of God. If it were inconsistent with unlimited goodness to punish sinners eternally, God would, undoubtedly, display the glory of His mercy in their everlasting salvation. Justice, however, is a divine perfection as well as mercy; and it is as proper that the one should shine forever as the other. If all the enemies of JEHOVAH should be annihilated at the judgment day, it would not set the evil of
sin in such a striking light, in the view of the intelligent universe, as in beholding them constantly and forever suffering the due reward of their iniquity. The conception is too trifling to be cherished for a moment, that God should form intelligent agents to be the mere creatures of a day-to flutter like an atom in the beams of the sun, and then eternally disappear!
3. The painful anticipations which sinners have in relation to futurity, are in direct opposition to the belief of their annihilation. We know that their fears, on this account, are very great and distressing. It is inconsistent to suppose that God, whose benevolence is unlimited, would suffer His rational creatures to be constantly tortured with needless fears. Surely, there is not a hint in all the Scriptures, that the fears of sinners are disproportioned to their danger; unless it be in having them in too small a degree. But, after all that is said on the pleasing theories of universal salvation; the future restoration of all men to holiness and happiness; and on the eternal annihilation of the wicked; such teachers find it difficult wholly to remove their own fears, or to remove the painful apprehensions of their hearers. "The Holy Scriptures cannot be broken," which expressly declare, that the wicked "have a certain fearful looking-for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Heb. 10. 27. Men may reason fallaciously in their own favor; but conscience, at certain times, will make them feel. In opposing the doctrine of eternal punishment, such preachers address the passions and prejudices of their hearers; but those men who vindicate it, appeal to the conscience, the understanding, and the heart. They are far more vulnerable to truth, than the passions and prejudices of men. It is said of the inspired preachers, that they commended themselves "to every man's conscience in the sight of
God.". Divine truth is armed with a power, to which falsehood can lay no claim. It is "sharper than any twoedged sword"-piercing the hardest heart. Under St. Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost, his hearers "were pricked in their hearts, and said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Acts 2. 37. No such effects were ever witnessed, under the doctrine of eternal annihilation. It is, therefore, a mere anodyne-an intoxicating cup-a draught of poison; it produces death!
4. It is not consistent with the demerit of sin, that its subjects should ever be annihilated. It is committed against God; and as He is a Being of boundless majesty and moral excellency, it must be, in its very nature, an infinite evil. There must, therefore, be some proportion between the crime and the punishment. Surely, the difference between annihilation and endless misery, may be called infinite. It is the very nature of sin to pour contempt on the character of God; and, therefore, the magnitude of its evil must exceed the power of description! If our concern for the Divine Honor were as strong as our prejudices against pain, our vociferation against eternal misery would be completely silenced. The sinner's desert of punishment is just as great as God is glorious, and no more. Just as much, therefore, as we lessen the idea of future punishment, we impair the value of His glory, who created and rules the universe! He saith, "It is an evil and bitter thing to sin against Him," and not to have His fear in our hearts. If it is a proper thing that God should display his own worth in punishing sinners, it is right that He should inflict that degree of it, which is, in an important sense, infinite. No finite being can suffer a punishment which can, in any sense, be called infinite, but by suffering through an unlimited duration. Annihilation would be an instantaneous operation; and in un
dergoing it, there would be no consciousness of any misery. It would be placing us, in one moment, in that non-entity from which we came. It could hardly be said, in such a case, that sinners were punished; it would be merely losing the reward of righteousness. In this view of the case, the threatenings contained in the Holy Scriptures, evaporate in the air. But we have no right to entertain such an opinion of that, which God saith, “ My soul hateth ;" and of which, an Apostle says, "It is exceedingly sinful." Eternity, however, will bear witness to the evil and ruinous nature of sin. But,
5. The annihilation of sinners is contrary to the positive declarations of JEHOVAH, in His inspired word. Though the reasons which have been offered against annihilation, have great weight, we do not rely on them as being absolutely conclusive. They make the eternal existence and misery of sinners, however, highly probable. As collateral testimony, they are of sufficient weight to be exhibited. But positive divine assertions need very little corroboration; and to such incontestible evidence we will now resort. Instead of annihilating sinners, Christ informs us, that He will say to them at the judgment seat, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matth. 25. 41. It is added, in the 46th verse, "And these shall "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment." If there were nothing more in the Scriptures, on this subject, these two passages are sufficient to settle it forever. There has been much said to evade the true meaning of the word EVERLASTING; but notwithstanding all their cavils, every scholar must say that it is a powerful-an unlimited expression. The learned and the unlearned irresistibly feel its force.
But we must proceed to further Scriptural testimony ou this momentous subject. It is said by the Apostle Jude,
that Sodom and Gomorrah, for their heinous sins against God, "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." That wicked generation, therefore, had not been annihilated; but were actually enduring misery in the days of this Apostle; and had then endured it, for upwards of two thousand years. He does not say that they had suffered, in the past tense; but that they were then suffering, in the present tense. This passage stands in direct oppssition, both to the doctrine of materialism and annihilation. The man who appeared at the marriage feast without a wedding garment, "the King said to his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matth. 22. 13. This phraseology, in relation to the treatment of sinners after death, is used by Christ four times in the Gospel of Matthew, and once in the Gospel of Luke. Weeping and gnashing of teeth," are strong expressions of great pain; and is, therefore, inconsistent with the cessation of existence. It is said by Jesus Christ, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9. 43, 44. This unequivocal and awful language, is three times repeated in the above-mentioned chapter. The sinner is "the worm," which is said never to die; and the fire in which he is placed, we see is never to be extinguished. This sacred statement is utterly inconsistent with the doctrine of annihilation.
The case of the rich glutton, also shows that future misery commences immediately after death; and the passages that have been just quoted, prove that it is to be eternal. Concerning the unhappy rich man, our Lord