« PoprzedniaDalej »
Such is the doctrine of endless misery. Can any one seriously believe it? Can any human
your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day or night, or one minute's ease, yet you shall have no hope of being delivered; when, after you
shall have worn out a thousand more such ages, yet you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are no one whit nearer to the end of
that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of
your torment shall still ascend for ever and ever ; and that your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, yet will still exist to bear more wrath; your bodies, which shall have been burning all this while in these glowing flames, yet shall not have been consumed, but will remain through an eternity yet; which shall not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past.”
In the next page, he adds, “ Besides, their capacity (that of the wicked) will probably be enlarged, their understandings will be quicker and stronger in a future state; and God can give them as great a sense, and as strong an impression of eternity as he pleases, to increase their grief and torment."
What a tremendous, what a savage thought ! What a thing is system! To think that a man, possessing a heart of flesh, and an understanding enlightened by the Christian religion, can steadily contemplate such a scene as this, and imagine it is a just exhibition of the conduct of the Author of this beautiful and happy world! Such conduct is worthy of the mind that plotted the Inquisition, and of the heart that first leaped in exultation at the device of consuming the body in the flaming faggot for the good of the soul; but to impute it to the pure, and lovely, and benignant Spirit that presides over the universe--language cannot speak the horror that is in it.
While feeling as I do, the utter inability of language to ex
being consider what God is, and what endless misery implies, and affirm that he really thinks the infliction of the one, consistent with the perfections of the other ?
All the weight of the preceding reasoning, all the obstacles which it opposes to the belief that
press the deep reprobation with which such representations ought to be regarded by all Christians, I should think myself deficient both in candor and justice, were I to omit to state a truth of which there is abundant evidence, and of which I rejoice to perceive that the evidence is increasing, namely, that in the present age many persons who believe in the doctrine of endless misery, shrink with unfeigned horror from such exhibitions of it. Many excellent and pious persons, some of whom I have the pleasure of knowing, though they cannot satisfy themselves that the terms in which the Scriptures speak of the endless suffering of the wicked, import less than an endless duration, and though they profess themselves upable to see any injustice in the infliction of an endless punishment, yet believe that the degree of suffering actually imposed, will not exceed that which is perfectly consistent with infinite benevolence. What that degree is they do not presume to determine. On this awful subject they are content to take the language of Scripture as they find it, and wish uniformly to adhere to that language, satisfied that, whatever be the degree and the duration of the misery really, threatened, the Judge of all the earth must do right. While, therefore, their wishes incline them to milder views of the Divine inflictions, they highly disapprove of such representations of them as those that have been cited, which they think, if considered and believed, must fill the mind with too much terror, to exert a reasonable and steady influence over it, and if not considered and believed, can be of no service.
such can be the end of the greater part of the rational world, created by an infinitely wise, pow. erful, and good Being, may be applied against the doctrine that the wicked will be raised from the dead, made to suffer great bodily anguish, and then blotted out of existence for ever. Against the doctrine of endless punishment, it seems de. cisive ; against the doctrine of limited punishment terminated by destruction, it applies with great, though not with equal force : for while the first opinion teaches that he acts altogether contrary to goodness, the second represents him as not acting up to what sober and unpresuming reason seems to indicate the full measure of it.
In a word, if God be really a being of perfect goodness, who can at no time act without the most benevolent design; if, when he created man he intended that he should be pure and happy, and if there be nothing in the universe capable of frustrating his purpose, both the doctrine of endJess misery, and that of limited punishment terminated by destruction, appear to be attended with insuperable difficulties. But if, on the other hand, the sin which at present prevails, and the punishment which in future will be inflicted upon it, be the means employed by the Deity to accomplish his benevolent purpose ; if the state of discipline in which he will place his erring creatures, be so wisely adapted to their mental and moral disorder, as to oblige them to perceive
and feel and hate the folly of which they have been guilty, to excite in them a deep sorrow for it, and a real love of goodness ; and if, when thus fitted for pure enjoyment, he mercifully permit them to participate of it, every difficulty vanishes, every thing is consistent, every thing is glorious, every counsel is benevolent, and every perfection harmonizes with the event. tice, his holiness, his wisdom, his power, his goodness, will have been exerted, and exerted successfully, to bring about a result truly exalted and glorious. Then, indeed, may the universal acclamation of praise burst from his intelligent creation-Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
OF THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF THE DOCTRINE
OF UNIVERSAL RESTORATION, FROM THE NA-
A SKILFUL artificer, in constructing a piece of machinery, modifies and combines its various parts so as to make them subservient to a particular purpose, and we estimate the perfection of the mechanism by the completeness with which every thing is included necessary to secure the intended result, and every thing avoided which may impede it. In the external frame of man, there is the most exquisite adaptation of different parts to each other ; the most beautiful results are designed and accomplished by contrivances, at one time extremely simple, at another wonderfully complicated, but at all times perfectly wise and efficient. The external frame of man, however, is only a part, and a very inferior part of this wonderful microcosm ; and since such ini. mitable skill has been exerted in the construction of it, we must conclude that the whole nature of man is designed to answer some purpose, and