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ture event, depending upon man's free will, (as their actual compliance with this grace does,) but which declare what the things are in themselves, or in the design and purpose of God. St. Paul's exalting the gift above the offence, cannot mean with regard to the universality of it, or the numbers of men concerned, as the author seems to think ; though at the same time he appears sensible of the absurdity, which he is willing to disguise. Says he in a note, “ If the effects of the offence were universal, what “ may we not expect from the gift, if it ought to “ exceed it?” Why truly, that its effects should be more than universal. But he would not speak out, lest the absurdity should be too plain. But St. Paul best explains his own meaning; for the judgment was by one to condemnation ; (came by one offence of one man ;) but the free gift is of many offences unto justification; is an universal declaration of pardon, upon certain conditions, of all offences whatsoever, to all mankind. Moreover, we will grant to the author, that the free gift has “ more influence “ to make us happy, than the offence to make us “ miserable.” Still it does not follow that all will be happy; because no influence can make them so, whether they will or not.
His “second argument for the opinion in ques“ tion, is taken from the express declarations of scrip“ ture, that God keeps not his resentment for ever.” He begins to “ inquire into the strength of this “ proof” in his third Letter, which is concerning the conclusion of the second commandment.
“ In the first part, God shews himself as a power“ ful and jealous God, punishing iniquity to the “ fourth generation; in the last, he is represented
“ as exerting mercy to thousands of generations. “ Doth not this mean, that justice in his punish“ ments is restrained within certain bounds, whereas “ mercy knows no limits?”
If the author will argue from the mere words and letter of this commandment, mercy is as really restrained within certain bounds as justice; only the bounds of the former are vastly wider, and more extensive, than those of the latter! All God's perfections are in themselves equally infinite, and yet the exercise of them must be limited by the nature of the objects, with regard to which they are exerted. He contends himself, (Letter I.) that in God both goodness and justice are boundless; that they are so far from destroying one another, that they are inseparable: “justice is not opposite to good“ ness, nor goodness to justice.” Was it the design then of this commandment to “ restrain within cer“ tain bounds” that which is boundless ? or to represent two divine attributes as inconsistent with one another, which are so inseparable, that we cannot so much as imagine or suppose them to subsist asunder? But the proper answer to what he argues from the conclusion of this commandment is, that it is nothing to the purpose. A general inference may be drawn from it, viz. that God delights
Hence Mr. Whiston makes his calculation, “ that in general, “ the duration of the punishment of the wicked will be no greater, “ as compared with the duration of the happiness of the good, “ than two or three are to a thousand.” P. 135. I know not what these gentlemen see, more than other people can, in the conclusion of this commandment; but I am satisfied, if we were to argue so on the other side, from our own fanciful interpretations of very plain words, our arguments would be treated with great contempt.
much more in blessing than in punishing; which is very consistent with our doctrine. But it is only the sanction of a peculiar law, given to a people in peculiar circumstances of relation to the great Lawgiver, who was not only their God, but their King. Idolatry therefore, which was a departure from him, was as the sin of rebellion, or high treason, against their prince: and his punishment of it might justly, and would naturally in the course of things, extend to the third or fourth generation. But what is all this to the punishments of another world, where there are no generations, and where every man bears only his own iniquity? The author says he “ does “ not suppose any one pretends to take the words “ literally m, or imagines that God makes children “ accountable for the iniquities of their fathers.” As if these were equivalent. This proposition, “ God “ makes children accountable for the iniquities of “ their fathers,” may mean that he always does so; that this is the rule of his dealings with all mankind, in all ages of this world, and even in the world to come : which certainly is not true. And yet the words in question are to be taken literally, with proper restrictions and limitations; and when so qualified, imply no more than what the supreme powers of this world do every day, in cases of a like nature. But the artifice is, to pretend that the words cannot
in Yet in other places his tune seems to be altered. “On how “ many occasions have we seen children die for the iniquity of “ their fathers, and subjects for that of princes?” And then he recites several instances, p. 340. And again, p. 431, in a note ;“ Children are punished with their fathers, subjects with their “ prince ;-God calls one generation to an account for what “ passed in the foregoing age.”
be taken in a literal sense; and then you may affix to them any (mystical) sense, just to serve a turn. But whoever argues from that, argues only from a sense of his own, and not at all from the sense of the conclusion of the second commandment.
We are next encountered, in his fourth Letter, with the whole 107th Psalm. And it is well, when his hand was in, that he did not attack us with the whole hundred and fifty. For all of them, more or less,“ set before our eyes a representation of the “ wonderful ways of the divine wisdom, justice, and “ mercy.” The 107th Psalm in particular is a celebration of God's manifold providence over travellers, over captives, over sick men, over seamen, and in divers varieties of life; as the argument of it runs very justly in our common Bibles. If the author has a mind to make an allegory of it, he has his liberty; provided only he does not put his allegories upon us for scripture proofs: for in that way scripture may be made to prove any thing. “ That immense good“ ness is not confined to the short space of this life,” we believe as firmly as he does. The mercy of the Lord will endure for ever; as millions of creatures will experience. But that all will become proper objects of it, or, as he expresses it, “ shall be capable “ of receiving its influence ;" is more than he can prove from this Psalm, or any other.
We must follow him now to Psalm ciii. 9 : for he goes backwards, retreating, as it were, to his strongest hold. “ One of the strongest expressions against “ the eternity of torments is this; He will not al“ ways chide, nor keep his anger for ever : a de“ claration more strong, and the further removed “ from ambiguity, as it is taken from the nature
“ and perfections of God himself, and perfectly agrees “ with the ideas of justice, which every one finds “ engraved upon his own mind.” Several things may be returned to this; as first, he has here forgot the point he was to prove. For supposing this to be “ one of the strongest expressions against the eter“ nity of torments,” it does not therefore follow that it proves his system of the restoration. Then, whereas he says “ this declaration is taken from the nature “ and perfections of God,” &c. I would ask, whether this proposition, viz. God will punish for erer those who for ever are proper objects of punishment, be not likewise taken from the nature and perfections of God himself? If the nature and perfections of God permit him to be angry, or to punish, for a time; why may they not permit him to punish for ever, if the reasons of punishment still continue? If the punishment was at first without reason, it was unjust, how temporary or short soever; and if there be reason for it, it will not be unjust, let the duration of it be what it will. But the proper answer undoubtedly is, that the Psalmist is not at all speaking of punishment in another world, in a state of retribution; but of correction, or chastisement, in the present state of discipline and trial n. The author
Psalm ciii. 9. He will not always chide : neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins ; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. It is the same case with Isaiah, chap. lvii. 16. which the author thinks “ deserves to be quoted at “ full length,” p. 287. For I will not contend for ever, neither till I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. The prophet having reproved the idolatrous