« PoprzedniaDalej »
quereth forevermore.—Blessed be the God of truth.” i Esdras iv. 38, 39.
And further, in allthe laws and commandments given to Moses, the penalty for transgression is annexed, but from first to last, there is not the least intimation given, no not the least imaginable intimation of everlasting punishment as the penalty for transgression. Nor is it reasonable it should be; as to the first given by God himself, was annexed no such punishment for transgression. But those who will have a hell at all events, (it appears that they really wish some of their fellow creatures to go to hell,) and as they cannot find any revealed law the transgression of which threatened such punishment, they tell us that God has a secret will concerning his creatures. So the law, the penalty of which is eternal punishment, he has not revealed. Thus they make him as unjust as a king who has a law which he has made, but keeps it a secret in his own mind, and punishes those of his subjects who transgress it. But as nothing can exceed this for injustice, and is the greatest of all absurdities; I will take no further notice of it.
Now as it is clear there was no law given to man, under the Adamic, or Mosaic dispensation, the penalty of which should be everlasting punishment, how can we believe there was any such law given under the gospel dispensation, which is believed, and said to be by all believers in the scriptures, to be more merciful than any former dispensation. In particular, a dispensation of mercy and grace. And which is called “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people,
and on earth, peace and good will towards all men. (Luke ii. 10–14.)
I cannot believe in the eternal misery of one creature till I can find a law which threatens such punishment for the violation of it, and as no such punishment was threatened for the transgression of any before the gospel dispensation. It is most certain that there cannot be such a law under the gospel; If any such law was ever given, it must have been given to our first parents, and we read not of the least intimations of such a law having been given to them. If such a law was given under, or by the gospel, it is much harder for mankind who have lived since, than before; for all who lived before, could not be condemned; no, not one of them, and punished for ever, for the transgression of a law, that was never given them, or of which they had no knowledge. This would be contrary to all our civil laws, and all our ideas of justice. In fact, nothing can be more certain, than that no such law was ever given. I am not in the least afraid to bid defiance to all the learned divines under heaven to produce a law within the lids of the Bible, or in the Old and New Testaments, that threatened eternal punishment for transgression or any sin. And as they cannot show any such law, their abominable, wicked, cruel, eternal-damnation doctrine, is clean
We will now proceed to examine the NewTestament, and first notice the preaching of John the Baptist. We read that he preached repentance, if he believed in eternal puishment after this life, it is unaccountable that he did not preach ít, to the many people that came to hear him, that if they did not repent they would be punished in hell for ever; but no, not one word did he tell them about punishment after this life.
I now pass on to the time called the day of pentecost, (Acts chap.2 ) when 3000 were added to the church by the preaching of Peter. We have the substance of his sermon, and not the least intimation is given of that which is so much preached in this day, and thought to be so necessary to convince people of the consequences of sin. And in the next chapter, there is another sermon preached by the same apostle; and not one word about eternal punishment: but the contrary; he speaks of the restoration of all things; and for their encouragement, he told them that they were included in the covenant that God made with their fathers, that "all the kindreds of the earth should be blessed."
And when Peter and John, were by the rulers called to an account for their preaching, and forbid to speak any more in the name of Jesus, they soon after preached again, and so powerful that the place was shaken where they were assembled, without one word of scaring the people about going to hell. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to preach; but not a word do we read of this doctrine, so common in this day.
The seventh chapter of Acts, contains a pretty lengthy sermon, preached by Stephen. He tells them of the sins they had committed from
time to time, and calls them stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart, and how their fathers had persecuted the prophets; and lastly, he told ihem of their murdering Jesus Christ. This cut them to the heart, because they knew it to be the truth. There are many in our day, who will not bear to hear the truth. If you tell them the truth, and that which they know to be the truth, they will be angry, like as they were with Stephen. They gnashed upon him with their teeth, and ran upon the poor innocent man and stoned him to death. And like every good man, he prayed for them, that God might not lay this sin to their charge. No: he did not wish them punished, (far from it,) nor had he spoken a word to them about going to hell for their sins. Nor throughout all the acts of the apostles, in all their conversations, disputations and sermons, to warn people of sin, and to persuade them to repentance, not one word do we read about damnation, hell and eternal punishment, which, if the doctrine was then believed, is most unaccountable. If they had believed the doctrine, as now believed, they could hardly have avoided, in their preaching, slipping out a word once in a while: but no not one word; nor the least intimation about eternal damnation.
One who had never read the Bible, but had only heard preaching, and read such authors as Edwards, Bunyan, and others of the same school, then read the scriptures, he might say, as a learned writer does, when he come to examine the scriptures on this subject, “I was surprised," says he, "to find the sacred writers, so very sparing in the use of the word eternal, or ever
lasting, as refering to future punishments, upon which such vast stress is laid. I must needs
say, I expected, when I began to collect this part of the evidence to set befere the reader's view, to have seen the word everlasting connected with the misery of the next state, at least, in every book of the New Testement, if not several times in each bonk: Whereas upon examination, it appears, that by far the greater part of the inspired writers have never used this word, nor any other word allied to it insense and meaning, with reference to future torments; while those who have used it, have rarely done so. It is used but thrice by the evangelist Matthew, but once by the evangelist Mark, and this in a special case only; and but once likewise by the apostle Paul, though his epistles make so considerable a part of the New Testament. It is not met with in the gospels either of Luke or John; nor in either of the three epistles of John. And, what is very remarkable, in the account we have of the preaching of the apostles from place to place, throughout the world, in the book of the Acts, there is a total silence as to their ever having used ihis word, or any other, importing that the misery of the wicked is endless and never ceasing. All of which is very extraordinary, if this is a doctrine of Christianity. For, if it really be so, it is a most important one; and it cannot be easily accounted for, that the inspired writers should have so strangely passed over it with such neglect. It might rather have been expected, that they should have perpetually insisted on it, and with great solemnity too, and in a great variety plain and indisputable terms. And their omis