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cause itself, and the defence of it. No part of true religion is naturally connected with any man's way of supporting it; but is certainly, in itself, capable of a rational vindication, whether his attempts to vindicate it succeed or fail : and I desire religion may have the benefit of this observation, against any injury I myself may do it.
My design in these papers is not to confine my thoughts and method to that of any one particular writer; but as the gentlemen, who have distinguished themselves on the negative side of this question, proceed upon different principles, and advance arguments and hypotheses not very consistent-with one another, I shall take a wider compass than perhaps is necessary to answer any one of them, and treat of the subject in such a manner, that none of their sentiments may appear to be wholly neglected. However, as Mr. Whiston is the latest writer upon this subject; as he complains, that some others before him did not go to the bottom of it a; and may therefore be supposed to imagine that he himself has done it; and likewise as his performance was the immediate occasion of mine; a more particular regard will be paid to him in the course of these observations. Now this gentleman tells us, that there is not “ so “ much as one plain testimony b," either in the Old or New Testament, for this doctrine of eternal torments; that they are “ entirely unjust in their own “ nature; extremely cruel and barbarous, both in the “ threatening, and in the execution; and what any “ one, that believes and considers the exact justice, “ and infinite goodness of God, cannot possibly be“ lieve at the same time. If the common doctrine,"
* Page 2, 136. P. 19. P. 1 36.
he says, “ were certainly true, the justice of God “ must inevitably be given up, and much more his “ mercy; for this doctrine supposes him to delight “in cruelty and barbarity, the most savage cruelty “ and barbarity possible d; that these punishments “ answer no good end, but are only instances of the “ absolute and supreme power and dominion of the “ cruel and inexorable Author of their being e,” and that “this amazing, this most pernicious, this horrid “ doctrine, is unjustly fathered upon our holy reli“ gion f."
Many more passages to this purpose might be collected out of Mr. Whiston's book; but I take no delight in such work, and have repeated these with no other view, than as they may contribute to open my design, and serve to introduce what I have to offer upon the subject. Only, before I proceed further, it may be proper to take notice, that I have nothing to do with the doctrine as Mr. Whiston has represented it, and as he seems to think it is commonly held and believed. I contend for no doctrine, that supposes God to delight in cruelty; for no punishments, that are instances only of absolute and supreme power and dominion. All such doctrines as these Mr. Whiston may confute as long as he pleases; he will have no adversary in me. I likewise agree with him, that a distinction should be made between the heathen, and those that never heard of the gospel, and Christians, or those to whom that gospel has been preached 8. To these latter, with my consent, let the controversy be confined: they are, for certain, the persons properly concerned in a dispute about the punishments con4 Page 137. P. 19. P. 137. & P. 111.
tained in the gospel. But then, on the other hand, the gospel is the only proper authority to determine this question. Testimonies from apocryphal or spurious writers will signify little. And as the Old Testament has nothing so clear and express upon this subject as the New, and contains nothing contrary to the New Testament, it will be sufficient to examine how this matter is decided there.. .
Accordingly, I shall consider all the texts of the New Testament relating to this subject, and collect the doctrine from them alone. I shall then endeavour to clear this scripture doctrine from all imputations of injustice and cruelty, to reconcile it with the moral perfections of God, and shew, that it is so far from being what no one can possibly believe, that, upon the joint evidence of nature, philosophy, and revelation, it is perfectly credible. And if there be any particular objections that will not fall under these articles, they also shall be distinctly consider. ed. Thus far I shall be chiefly upon the defensive; but I shall not content myself merely with that. As the adversaries have advanced different schemes of their own, some being for the hypothesis of annihilation, and others for the system, as they call it, of a restoration; I shall take these schemes into consideration, and shew, that they are attended with difficulties not easy to be removed : so that if, after all, I should not be able to clear the doctrine I defend from all difficulties whatever, yet there would be no sense in rejecting it for the sake of other hypotheses, not clear from equal difficulties themselves, and supported by much less (perhaps by no) evidence of scripture. Lastly, as Mr. Whiston seems to intimate, that this eternity of future punishments is so far
from being a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, that it is rather a point of small consequence h; and likewise, that his doctrine is as likely to move and influence men, as this i; and something to the same purpose has been suggested by another writer, in favour of his system of a restoration-I must therefore examine this pretence, and shew the use and importance of the doctrine I defend.
Every one will see, that I have drawn out for myself the plan of a work which will be of some length; and which therefore, for the sake both of ease and method, must be divided into several chapters.
b Pages 102, 103 i P. 141.