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tions, which I have described; and destitute of all those comfortable and animating motives, which the Christian enjoys. They may, from respect to their religious neighbours, assume an air of virtue, and exhibit an outward show even of piety; but all is false and hollow. A few, perhaps, may, from the bias of their constitution, live innocent, inoffensive, and even exemplary lives; and if their delusion be involuntary, and they abstain from open acts or conversation to the disparagement of Christ and his religion, we may charitably hope, that they will escape final condemnation: but these are rare examples. Un. believers more generally addict themselves to . licentious principles and vicious practices; and they are altogether destitute of piety. To cover their own deficiencies, they often rail against virtue and holiness; and to justify their singularity, they openly declaim against the truth of the Gospel, affect to turn its doctrines and institutions into ridicule, and do what in them lies to mislead the ignorant to their ruin. How then can they hope for the mercy of God, whose gracious plans they have been labouring to counteract? What interest can they have in the intercession of his Son, to whom they have lived in open hostility? What share can they claim in that redemption which he effected for them, as well as for his own church, but which they have. rejected and despised ?
How different are the hopes of those, who have not only gratefully accepted of the terms of grace, and studied to conform to the conditions of the Gospel; but zealously co-operated with the spirit of God, and laboured “to turn many to righteousness!” What Christian, then, would exchange this comfortable and edifying faith, these animating motives, and powerful helps, this blessed assurance of a happy immortality, for the distracting doubts of scepticism, or the dismal convictions of infidelity ?
If any one, then, should ask, what advantage hath the faithful and obedient disciple of the Lord Jesus, I would reply; “ Much every way;"> in the special love of the Almighty, his heavenly Father; in the peculiar grace and favour of his well-beloved Son; in the persuasive exhortations, the authoritative instructions, and comfortable assurances of the word of God; in the unspeakable advantage of a pious and righteous education; in the efficacy and consolation of prayer ; in the stated preaching and ministration of the word, and the edification and sanctification of the holy communion; and in the grand result and consummation of all these, the blessed assurance of a happy and glorious immortality, which God hath promised to those who love him, and entertain a lively and effectual faith in his well-beloved Son.
Having thus considered the privileges and
prospects of righteous Heathens, and pious Christians, we are naturally led to inquire into the destiny of those unbelievers, who revile and blaspheme that holy and exalted person, who died an ignominious death to procure for them a glorious immortality, and those unworthy disciples who “profess to know him, but in works deny him.”
The wisdom, equity, and necessity of punishment, can hardly be questioned. It seems essential to our idea of a moral government. A prince, who should behold the impious profligate, and the religious, humane and upright citizen, with equal favour; or suffer the one to tyranize over the other with impunity, could scarcely pretend to any sense of virtue, religion, or justice, himself: and we are expressly taught, that such conduct would be altogether incompatible with the inherent holiness of the divine Being. This is true in the abstract, without regard to any good consequences to result from punishment.
The object of human punishments is, the pre. vention of crimes. This is said to be effected by the restraint or reformation of the criminal, and rendering him an example to deter others; and it is generally thought, that they should never be inflicted, except with a view to example or correction. I fear, that correction or amendment may be left out of the account; and that, with few exceptions, they answer no other end than
a salutary terror to the ill-disposed, and protection to the innocent. For this purpose, it is not necessary, that the infliction of the punishment should be exposed to view. It is sufficient, that the existence and authority of the law be of public notoriety; and that there be no doubt, that its penal sanctions will be carried into execution. Few individuals ever witness the execution of a criminal, but all are awed by it. · Such also is the design of future punishments.
They are an awful admonition “to cease to do evil, and learn to do well;" and an alarming warning of the consequence of sin. Neither is their object amendment and reformation; for the Gospel recognizes no other state of probation than this. They are to be endured in a state invisible to mortal man: but the living are assured by incontestable evidence, that they will take place; and, therefore, they have as powerful an effect, as if they were executed in this life. That this has been the case, under every form of religion, is unquestionable; and there is as little doubt, that if this salutary check were removed, mankind would rush precipitately into every species and degree of vice. A few might hesitate for a time, but the corruption would soon become uni, versal. There are, no doubt, some persons who act on virtuous and human principles, without any belief in a state of retribution; but these are influenced by an early religious education, and.
restrained by the example of their neighbours, the necessity of conforming to the prevailing manners, and a doubt of the soundness of their own conviction. The necessity, therefore, of making these penal sanctions known, and their efficacy in preventing the perpretation of crimes, are as evident as the equity of inflicting them.
The next point which calls for our consideration, is their duration. This is an awful subject. I have approached it with caution, and enter upon it with diffidence. Eternity, time without beginning and without end, is an idea of such inconceivable magnitude, that the human mind is unable to grasp it. By everlasting, we mean that portion of eternity, which is future and endless.
To conceive this as a state of interminable torment, is the most overwhelming idea ever pre. sented to the mind of man. It appears infinitely disproportioned to any sins, that could be committed in the life of the longest liver. We can hardly conceive, that it is compatible with that equitable law of judging men according to their works, that all who suffer should suffer throughout eternity. An insensible line, an imperceptible shade, must separate the worst of the good from the best of the bad; yet the difference between their fates is eternity; an eternity of enjoyment, or an eternity of misery.
Such thoughts as these have produced different effects on the minds of men. On all subjects