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he told them, of what they would suffer, we do. not read of the least intimation of eternal punishment. Nay, so far from that, we cannot find the least intimation of any punishment for sin, after this life. Neither has there yet, (about 2500 years,) been any law given, the penalty for the transgression of which, should be eternal punishment. The penalty threatened for disobedience, was temporal sufferings, and not a word more is mentioned.
Although the Jews in general, and the nations around them, were very wicked, yet no fears were expressed, nothing is said by any of the prophets about their being punished for ever, which doctrine is thought to be so necessary in this day, to deter men from sin. God raised
up prophets from time to time. to warn the Jews.. and other nations, of the judgements that awaited them, for their sins. If they believed in eter-, nal punishment, is not their total silence on this subject, and their not warning the wicked of it. most unaccountable?
The great city Nineveh, said to have been 50 miles in circumference, (the metropolis of the Assyrian empire, containing 120,000 inhabitants that did not know their right hand from their left; which is understood of infants, thereföre it must have been a city of vast population. This great city had become very wicked, Jonahı , was directed, (A. M. 3197.) to “go and preach unto it the preaching, (said the Lord,) that I shall bid... thee.” After entering into the city, a day's journey, he proclaimed, in the streets, no doubt,)Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Though this be the substance, of his mission,
and judgment denounced, yet undoubtedly liepreached more than barely this. Both for conviction, by laying open their sins to manifest the justness of the judgment denounced,and for exhortation, to bring them to repentance. And we read, (Mat . xii
. 39.) that they repented at the preaching of Jonah. God in his abundant goodness and mercy gave them hearts to repent, and averted the threatened evil. Poor Jonah was in a sad plight. (If he had had the billionthpart of the mercy that God has, he would never have been sorry that the whole city was not destroyed.) Because the clemency of God in sparing it, would, he thought, subject him to the censure of having been a false prophet. Thus he stood more upon his reputation as a prophet, than he did upon the lives of the whole city,
But is it possible that Jonah could have believed, that if they had not repented, and had allbeen destroyed, that they would have gone to an endless hell of torment and had rather they should be miserable forever, than that he should be censured as being a false prophet? This is hạrdly possible. If some of our preachers of the present day, or one like them had been sent, he would, to such a wicked people, have roared hell and damnation if they did not repent; as we know they would do in this day if sent to such a wicked people. I do not mean if sent by him who sent Jonah; but according to the common wayin this day of sending out preachers.
But we have not the least cause to believe that Jonah said a single word, either directly or indirectly, or gave them the least intimation that their souls. would be in danger of eternal pun
ishment, no, not even the least intimation of punishment at all after this life. Nor can a single instance be produced from the Old Testament, where a prophet was ever sent to any people to warn them of the danger of going to hell, after the brittle thread of life was cut, as false prophets have long done, and do now preach.
I wish here to notice the following from a late writer,* as very pertinent to my subject. “Iask," says he, “ If any man can produce a single instance where a false prophet ever endeavoured to make gain to himself
, by the doctrine of eternal misery from any being in the universe of God. I do not find that neither true nor false prophets did so under that dispensation, or that this doctrine was known and believed by a single individual. As men were not threatened with such a punishment, so none were ever congratulated as being saved from it. As it was never held up to deter men from sin while ignorant of God, so it was never urged on any to stimulate them to obedience and gratitude to God in delivering them from it. Is it possible then, that this doctrine of eternal misery could be believed; yet all l'emain silent on the subject? If true, and no revlation was given about it, how could men avoid such a punishment? If a revelation was given, how is it to be accounted for, that it is not mentioned by one of the Old Testament writers ? If it is mentioned by any one of them under any other name than Sheol, (i. e. the state of the dead,) I am ignorant of it; nor is it even pretended by those who believe the doctrine."
Throughout Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophets, to the end of the Old Testament, in all their warnings and threatenings of punishment, and predictions of judgments that should come upon the Jews, and other people for their sins, there is not one sentence of everlasting misery. There are a few texts that are construed so to mean, by the advocates of the doctrine of endless misery. But even admitting these few do appear to carry that meaning, is it reasonable to contend for these few in support of the horrid doctrine of eternal torment, (enough only the thought of it to make one's blood run cold, as it has in reality many a one's, so that it has run no more for ever,) against as many as I have quoted, and such texts that are so plain, that they need no explanation, a child may understand them, as “the Lord will not cast off forever. For, though he cause grief, yet he will have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies.” It is a droll disposition that most people possess for damnation, (but it is each one the damnation of his neighbour, not himself,) that they will strain every text they can to support it and overlook so many that support the doctrine of the salvation of all men. As I have intimated before, if men did but love their neighbour as themselves, they would be more ready to believe the doctrine. And this is as true a sentence as ever was written. For then they would be as loth that their neighbour or any other fellow creature should
go to hell, as they would be to go them, selves.
And now having gone throughh the Old Testament, I will stop a few minutes to make some observations. As to time, it is supposed to be about 4000 years. And I have not seen any law, at any time given by God or man, that the penalty should be eternal punishment for transgression. And this is the very reason that it was not preached, neither under the Adamic, the Abrahamic, nor Mosaic dispensation.
We have seen that there was not the least intimation of eternal death, or eternal punishment in the penalty of the simple law of obedience, given to Adam. It is astonishing to me how any man of sense can gather from what is there said that Adam and his posterity became liable to eternal death. When it is so clear what death Adam and Eve did die, that they experienced a change in their minds, from peace, communion and reconciliation with their Creator, they fell under condemnation, guilt and shame; and had to support their natural lives by having to work to till the earth. This is the penalty, and we read of nothing more.
Guilt and shame for sin all have experienced since; and the further any one runs into sin, so much more he dies, or becomes insensible to good. And the promise was given, that, that spirit which first led unto sin should finally be destroyed, and that good should overcome evil, and it is reasonable that it should; as good is stronger than evil; the same as truth is more powerful than error.
66 Truth endureth, and is always strong, it liveth and cona