Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“just and righteous, and those who kept his com“ mandments, he shall give immortality, and eternal “ glory. And in another of his Creeds he thus “ words it, that Christ • shall come in glory to be a “ Saviour of those who are saved, and a Judge of “ those who are judged, sending the corrupters of “ his truth, and the contemners of his Father, and “ his coming, into eternal fire.' And to the same “ effect it is in a Creed of Tertullian's, which he “ designedly repeats in opposition to the Gnostics, “ and other heretics of his time, that Christ shall “come in glory to receive the saints into the fruit “ of eternal life, and to sentence the profane to “ everlasting fire.' From all which it appears, that

this clause was levelled against the forementioned “ heresy of the Gnostics; and that it includes the “ final and eternal state of every man, of the damned “ in hell, as well as of the blessed in heaven; that, on “ the one hand, the wicked and miserable shall for “ ever suffer under the loads of divine vengeance; “ and that, on the other hand, the godly and blessed “ shall for ever live in the perpetual fruition of pure 66 and undisturbed happiness: the eternity of both “ which persons and states are included by St. “ Austin in his explication of this article, that after “ the resurrection and universal judgment, the “ godly shall happily live in eternal life, but the “ wicked miserably, without the power of dying, in “ eternal death, because they shall both be without “ end. Wherewith agrees the Creed, commonly

called the Creed of St. Athanasius, that at Christ's « coming, all men shall rise again with their bodies, " and shall give account for their own works; and

D

II

" they that have done good shall go into life ever: « lasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.

But this point must not be decided merely by the authority of creeds. If they had not contained it so expressly as some of them do, yet still if it be scripture doctrine, if it be insisted upon, repeated, inculcated in the word of God, it must be a doctrine of great importance. For, besides that it is not reasonable to think that scripture should frequently inculcate points of little weight or use, this is a doctrine of such a particular nature, that if it be a truth at all, it must be a truth of moment. It is indeed no less than this, that men may incur a miserable eternity by their behaviour here. And surely this can never be considered as a matter of small consequence, in which men are very little concerned. How plainly this doctrine is taught in scripture, and how frequently repeated there, may be collected from the former part of this work.

We may examine this matter in another light : , the sanctions of the Christian covenant, which bind it, and give it its due weight and efficacy, must be looked upon as essential to the covenant. “ Accord“ ingly, the doctrine of a future state must be a “ fundamental doctrine, as it is the principle of all “ religion : for without it there can be no sufficient “ inducement to the constant and conscientious prac“ tice of virtue and piety. The doctrine also of a “ resurrection, and final judgment by Christ our “ Lord, together with the doctrines of a heaven for “ the righteous, and a hell for the ungodly, are fun“ damental points of Christian theology. To deny “ or disbelieve these doctrines, is to overturn the

“ covenant, because it directly tends to defeat and “ frustrate the end and use of it, undermining its “ binding force, and sapping its influences, depriving “ it of its life, strength, and energy 8.” The only reply to this worth mentioning, must be, I conceive, to the following purpose : that the doctrine of a future state of retribution is one thing, and that of eternal punishment another; and that, however fundamental the general doctrine may be, yet this circumstance of the perpetuity, this particular explication of the article, is so far from being fundamental, that it is rather a point of small consequence.

The light in which we are now viewing this doctrine is, its influence on practice. And it should seem that it is the eternity of the punishment which gives it its chief weight and edge, and makes it pierce deepest into the hearts of sinners. It is the notion that that miserable state will admit of neither remedy or end, that alarms their fears, that restrains their wickedness within some bounds, and is most likely, after all, to make them repent of it. It seems natural to think that it must be so in reason, and it evidently appears to be so in fact. Don't we see with what eagerness licentious men of every kind embrace the hypothesis of temporary punishments? what can be the reason of this, but that they find ease and relief in this persuasion? They are resolved not to leave their sins, and the greatest consolation their case will admit of, is to believe as firmly as they can, that they shall not suffer eternally for them. The general doctrine of a future state gives them no great disturbance, and therefore

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

& Waterland of Fundamentals, p. 23.

they are content, for the most part, to let that alone. But inculcate once the eternity of hell torments, and the world of the ungodly, the whole confederacy of the wicked, is up in arms; a plain indication where the matter pinches, and that it is this particular which renders them unable to enjoy ease of mind and the pleasures of vice together.

What these men prove by their practice, our adversaries themselves, some of them, confirm by their judgment. They seem to be sensible that their doctrine may be of ill consequence; and are therefore for having it kept as a sort of secret from the generality of mankind, many of whom are hardly restrained by the fear even of eternal punishment from running into all manner of vice. This appears from the quotation below to have been the sentiment of Origen h; and that it was so also of Dr. Burnet i is evident (not to mention other things) from the express caveat he enters against the translation of his book. Mr. Whiston however is of another opinion; though, by denying the perpetuity both of reward and punishment, he has done more

—'AMX od åxirduvoy Tng tãV TOSOÚTWY cabívelas TICTEūbai ypapie άτε των πολλών ου χρηζόντων πλείονος διδασκαλίας παρά την περί της των αμαρτανόντων κολάσεως. εις γάρ τα υπερέκεινα αυτής ού χρήσιμον αναβαίνειν, διά τους μόγις φόβω της αιωνίου κολάσεως κάν συστέλλοντας επί ποσόν Tĩs Kakas, Kai Tãy ảm airs cua Tayou-xay, xúc v. Origen. cont. Cels. lib. vi. p. 292. ed. Spencer.

-Veruntamen meminisse semper debemus, quod præsentem locum apostolus quasi mysterium habere voluit; quo scilicet bujusmodi sensus fideles quique et perfecti intra semetipsos velut mysterium Dei silentio tegant, nec passim imperfectis et minus capacibus proferant. Orig. in fine libri octavi Explanationum in Epist. ad Romanos. Vid. Spenceri not. ubi sup.

i De Statu Mort. et Resurgent. cap. xi. ad finem.

V ma

perhaps than any man living, to destroy the comfort of good men, and hinder the repentance of the wicked, yet he seems to be satisfied that his doctrine is likely to have as good influence as the contrary. They, who will not suffer themselves to be moved by it, he imagines, “ will hardly ever be “ moved by the supposal of this absolute, but, to a “ free reasoner, perfectly incredible eternal duration “ of that punishment.” P. 141. And thus far we agree, that where eternal punishment is not believed, it is not likely to influence. His “free reasoners” therefore are out of the question : unless their free living may serve to shew the natural tendency of such principles, and in what they generally end. However, this point must not be decided merely by practice. Many who pretend to believe, or at least do not profess to deny, a miserable eternity, do by no means act agreeably to that persuasion. Want of consideration, as well as want of faith, may defeat the just influence which it ought, and otherwise would have upon them. The question is, which of the two opinions is best calculated in its own nature to secure obedience? a question, one would think, which can admit of no dispute. For sure the duration of any punishment is a matter of some weight. The longer this duration is likely to be, the more is the punishment to be feared and avoided : and, consequently, eternal punishment is more to be feared than any other punishment whatsoever. It is for this reason, we say, that eternal punishment is threatened in scripture: none other is so well adapted to secure obedience to the divine laws. And admitting the premises, which I have proved before, viz. that eternal punishment is threatened, it follows demonstrably

« AnteriorContinuar »