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ceased, when the Only End of those means is already Accomplished.
According to this account therefore, by Eternal punishments, and by the Threatnings of that punishment we are strictly to understand the very same thing. For mere Threatnings would Influence us to the observation of Laws, and that as effectually, though the Evils denounced were never to be Executed, as if they will be really inflicted, upon our disobedience, and are foretold us in order to avoid them, which is the true state of the matter: Mere Threatnings, I say, would Influence our behaviour, and that equally in both cases; supposing the Reality of the evil denounced to be in both cases equally believed. Now whosoever hath Thought enough to perceive this, (and any man's Thoughts will mount much higher, when in pursuit of such discoveries as would infallibly rescue him from all Dread and Solicitude, from all Interruption and Uneasiness amidst the utmost finful enjoyments) whosoever can thus reflect and thus observe, that the Actual execution of Eternal punishment cannot secure the observation of Laws, because the obligation of Laws will cease, when all Humane governments and this state of things shall be dissolved, before the Time of Inflicting the torments Denounced; and that Threatnings, suppofing a Belief of the evil denounced, do with equal prevalency move us to obedience whether the evil so denounced will really be the consequence of our Disobedience or not; and is, at the same time, persuaded, that this great end of government, the observation of Laws, is the Only Reason, the Only Foundation of Eternal punishment, will either intirely abandon all Apprehensions of it, or however, the Belief of it must sit very loose upon him.
But this account is no less False than Dangerous. And indeed every Reply, that adds new Force to an Objection instead of Satisfying and removing it, may, for that very reason, be jusly suspected as a Groundless and Falle account; and the reasonableness of such a suspicion is in this particular plainly exemplified. For even in Humane Administrations, though
D 3 penalties penalties do bear ever so plain and immediate a respect to the observation of Laws, yet they are always to be determined by Justice, or consistent with it. And much less should we dare to Imagine, that any punishment, especially that which is of greatest moment, that which is Eternal, should be apportion’d by Almighty God in such a manner, that his Justice should not be concern'd in it. No; the Distribution of Rewards and Punishments is the proper object of his Justice, and ’tis as manifest an Absurdity to affirm, that this Attribute should not be concern’d in determining the state of future misery, as that his Power and Wisdom should not be concern’d in the Creation of the world, or his Goodness and Mercy in the works of our Redemption.
And therefore, after all the stress that is laid upon securing the observation of Laws, the true state of the matter is nothing but this, which is obvious to every man who understands the first principles of Chriftianity, That God Almighty hath under the Gospel, positively determined a state of Endless misery for all that are disobedient, That this Revelation of his Will is of most excellent use to secure the observation of the Commandments, and that if this Revelation does not produce Obedience, the Punishment denounced will certainly follow; which is not denounced and Described in the Gospel only to fright us into Virtue and Goodness, but is strictly consistent with God's Justice and the proper Effect of it, and will therefore be certainly Executed; unless that should prove true, which this Eminent Author chiefly urgeth to Illustrate and Confirm his second Observation, namely this, That after all, he that threatens hath fill the power of Execution in his own hands; and be may without any Injury to the party threatned, remit and abate as much as he pleaseth of the punishment that he hath threatned: And because in so doing he is not worse, but better than his word, no body can find fault, or complain of any Wrong or Injustice thereby done to him.
Now ’tis readily granted, that no body can complain of any Wrong or Injustice
dong done to him, supposing an Abatement of punishments denounced, or a Total exemption from them; but the Conclusion drawn from this Principle is manifeftly Trifling and False. For God's Justice is to be consider'd either with reference to the effects of it upon Us, or with refpect to God himself, as it is, in it's utmost and Infinite perfection, an Attribute of the Divine Nature, and absolutely Inseparable from it. With respect to our selves there would be no Injustice in the utmost conceivable Abatement of Punishment, nor yet in an intire Impunity: For nothing is Unjust to us but what 'is Hurtful; and if so, then there can be no Injustice done to us, so long as we suffer no kind of Misery.
The Vanity therefore and Falseness of this Argument appear even in this, that it proves too much; for it does not with more force conclude against the certainty of Eternal punishments, than it does, that at the General Resurrection a General Indemnity shall be proclaimed, and all Mankind, without distinction, admitted to the Happiness of Heaven: And yet this