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Jew first, and also of the Gentile." Rom. 1. 18. chap. 2. 5. It is the united voice of the ministers of the word, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ya reconciled to God." 2 Cor. 5. 20. The Scriptures con tain suitable instructions for uninspired ministers, in relation to all the duties which are incumbent on them. They are required to explain and enforce every doctrine, duty, promise and threatening, contained in their instructions; and to inform men, how they may obtain happiness and avoid misery. In this case, their instructions are ample; being no less than the whole word of God. They have no discretionary power in this matter-no right to depart from their instructions in the least degree. They are neither to add nor diminish, on the pain of God's eternal displeasure; for He saith, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book. And if any man take away from the words of the book-God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Rev. 22. 18, 19. They are the best instructors, who adhere the most closely to the divine rule, in their life and doctrine. They have ample room to display all the talents they may possess, in study, argument and persuasion. There is no want of sufficient materials to convince men of sin-to apprize them of their danger, and to show them the way of life, if they themselves have an experimental acquaintance with God-with their own hearts, and with the Holy Scriptures. To leave any thing undone, which is in their power to do to convince sinners, is extremely wicked. The ministers of the glorious gospel, need great knowledge-they should be very active; and feel at all times the constraining love of Christ. They are appointed to RR.
watch for souls, and they must give an account to God for all their ministrations. To have immortal souls perish through their neglect, is an affecting consideration. Their hearts should be filled with benevolence to men; zeal for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, should animate them to unwearied exertions. In instructing and warning men, no opportunity should be neglected. The harvest truly is great; but faithful laborers are few. It is a glorious thing to be employed, as humble instruments, in saving the souls of men. They will be crowns of joy to faithful ministers, in the day of Christ. Every thing should be done, so that, if sinners are lost, the fault may be their own.
3. If the wicked are not to be annihilated, but eternally punished, we may see the great iniquity of deceiving them. False doctrines lead to death-eternal death! It is, therefore, highly criminal to tell sinners, that all they have to dread is annihilation. They would not very generally adopt such pernicious principles, unless they were inculcated by learned, artful, studious, and active men. It is true of such teachers, that "they are wise to do evil ; but to do good, they have no knowledge." Alas! "they know not what they do!" The depravity of their hearts makes them reason on divine subjects in a manner that is unworthy of the learning and abilities which they possess. In this fallen world, many whose natural powers and acquirements are eminent, appear to be profoundly ignorant in respect to the interesting science of divinity. In their case, that apostolical saying is true, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts." Eph. 4. 18. As they do not love to retain God in their knowledge, they rack their minds to invent schemes which are adapted to soothe their
own fears, and to relieve the feelings of other sinners. It is, however, a very wicked employment to be "crying peace when there is no peace." But when men will venture to teach such smooth and delusive doctrines, there always will be some who "love to have it so ;" but as a prophet says, "What will be the end thereof ?" Such deceivers of mankind are in danger of something worse than annihilation, even eternal damnation. If, as Solomon says, "he that winneth souls is wise," we may be assured, that he who ruins them, is exceedingly foolish. If the men who turn many to righteousness, "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever;" we may infer, that corrupting the principles, debasing the morals of men, and fitting them for eternal destruction, must sink the agents into the blackness of darkness forever. In hearing that sinners are to be annihilated, and not eternally punished, many may venture on the commission of crimes, which, under different views, they would never have perpetrated. The belief of annihilation must be dangerous to the peace of society, as well as to the salvation of the soul. If, as has been proved, the notion is false in theory, and pernicious in its effects, inculcating it must be a high-handed act of iniquity. Every benevolent heart, therefore, should reprobate the promulgating of it, as a thing dishonorable to God, injurious to community, and calculated to populate the region of endless despair! But it is truly said by St. Paul, that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Dangerous errors, however, must be opposed in the spirit of the Gospel; yet, with perspicuity, ardor and perseverance. Bitterness is not admissible, however wicked, erroneous, and inimical to us, its abettors may be. It is the voice of God, "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle. unto all men, apt to teach, pa
tient, in meekness instructing those who oppose." In contending with heretics, it should be remembered, that we are, by nature, the enemies of God, even as others. If we have embraced the truth, it has been through Divine grace; and, therefore, we have no right to glory over any of our fellow men. We are bound to pray for the most erroneous and sinful part of men. It is our duty, however, to convince them, if possible, of their guilt and danger; for that is an act of real benevolence.
4. If sinners are not to be annihilated, but eternally punished, we may learn the importance of their being convinced of these things. No man is called upon to believe any thing without sufficient evidence. In the investigation of a subject of this nature, we may set this down as a fact, that there is no conclusive evidence of it, but in the Scriptures. No doubt, God can annihilate any thing that He has made; but whether He will, or will not annihilate sinners, our reason is incompetent to determine. The Bible, therefore, is the only rule by which the matter can be decided. The advocates for annihilation, we have seen, have recourse to Scripture for the support of their theory. Great care, therefore, should be taken in studying that Book, not to draw from it any improper conclusions. It must be allowed, that many different systems are professedly built upon that foundation. This must convince us, that many are wresting the sacred pages from their true meaning; for they cannot support opposite doctrines. To believe that those writings are obscure, would be a great reflection on their glorious Author. But if that is not the case, it must certainly follow, that many are not faithful to themselves, in the examination of that inspired Volume. By detaching a passage from its connection, and forcing a literal meaning on words that are highly figurative, and capable of different constructions, any thing may be easily
proved. But when we see a doctrine supported by express and unequivocal Scripture testimony, it must not be set aside, because doubtful passages are urged against it. It is an excellent rule of interpretation, to settle the meaning of doubtful texts by such as are clear and express; and not to explain away the meaning of positive assertions, by passages that are figurative, and capable of different solutions. By proceeding in such a preposterous way, many have deceived themselves and others. When passages are adduced to prove a theory, that is in itself congenial with the reigning depravity of the heart, their application may be consistently doubted. It is not to be expected, that divine truth will ever be flattering to human pride, nor pleasing to sinners. We have seen, that the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent, is supported by express declarations of Scripture; and, therefore, the passages which are pressed into the service of an opposite hypothesis, are, undoubtedly, misconstrued, and improperly applied. If we were honest, we might very easily settle the point in question. It is the deceitfulness of the heart, that presents the subject in a doubtful light, or determines the mind in favor of the doctrine of annihilation. It is wicked and dangerous to be halting between these opinions. Placing ourselves before the throne of God, with the Bible open in our view, and our hand upon our heart, let this great question be settled; for, in such a solemn attitude, we will, undoubtedly, come to a proper conclusion. Conscience testifies in favor of such a method of procedure; but, alas! the heart of the sinner is against it! He hates to be disquieted. It is much better, however, to tremble now, than to tremble at the sound of the last trumpet. Instead of annihilation, Jesus Christ saith, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth: they that have