« AnteriorContinuar »
And indeed with respect to us under the gospel, the text must mean the moral law only, because, as the ceremonial law is now repealed, it is no longer in existence, and therefore is no longer contained in the book of the law. Further, if the redemption of Christ was a redemption from the curse of the ceremonial law only; then it had no respect at all to us Gentiles, who never were under the ceremonial law; nor are we in any respect redeemed by Christ.
It is also to be observed, that this curse is opposed by the apostle, throughout the context, to the blessing of Abraham, as is manifest by inspection. But the blessing of Abraham did not consist in freedom from the ceremonial law. If it consisted in that, the Gentiles originally possessed the blessing of Abraham, since they were as perfectly free from the ceremonial law, as Abraham himself. Whereas the coming of the blessing of Abraham on the Gentiles is spoken of as a new and adventitious blessing, not as one originally possessed by them; see v. 8 and 14. The blessing of Abraham is not only not said to consist in bare freedom from the ceremonial law, but it is positively said to consist in justification by faith; v. 6-10; v. 14 and 29.
This passage throws light on the present question in another point of view. As the curse of the law is set in direct opposition to the blessing of Abraham, all who are not entitled to the blessing of Abraham, are of course under the curse, and are not unconditionally rescued from it by Jesus Christ.-If it should be said, that the blessing of Abraham is common to all mankind, all being justified and exempted from the curse of the law, as he was; let it be observed, that Abraham obtained this blessing in consequence of faith only and will it be pretended, that all men are now the subjects of the faith of Abraham? The apostle constantly speaks of this bless
ing as suspended on the condition of faith; v. 7, "They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham;" v. 8, "The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith;" v. 9, “They which be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham ;" v. 14, "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith;" v. 29, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Now if faith in Christ be necessary to the inheritance of the blessing of Abraham, and all who are not entitled to that blessing, be liable to the curse of the law; then it cannot be true, that all mankind are unconditionally freed by Chirst from the curse of the law, whether that curse be annihilation or any thing else.
3. On the hypothesis now under consideration, what are pardon and justification? They are every where in scripture represented to be conditional, suspended on the conditions of repentance and faith; and the same is abundantly holden by Dr. C. however inconsistently with his other tenet concerning the unconditional exemption of all men from the curse of the law. The language of scripture is, He that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. He that believeth not is condemned already-the wrath of God abideth on him, &c. &c. How can those be condemned, and how can the wrath of God abide on those, who are unconditionally delivered from the curse of the law? Pardon is generally supposed to consist in an acquittance from the curse of the law but if all men, penitent and impenitent, believing and unbelieving, be acquitted and delivered from that curse, where is the propriety or truth of limiting pardon to the penitent and believing, and of declaring, that all the rest of men are
condemned? To what are they condemned? Not to suffer the curse of the law: From this they are by supposition unconditionally delivered. By what are they condemned? Not by the law this would imply, that they are under the curse of it.
If to this it be said, that the impenitent are condemn ed to suffer the curse of the law, in this sense only, that the law declares the punishment to which, according to strict justice, they are liable; but not that punishment to which they are now liable, since the redemption of Christ: To this. it may be answered, In this sense the penitent and believing are equally condemned, as the impenitent and unbelieving; nay, the whole body of the saints in heaven. Nor would there be any truth in saying, in this sense, "He that believeth on Christ, is not condemned."
4. That single text, Gal. v. 2, seems to confute the hypothesis now in question. The words are, "If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." Whereas according to the hypothesis now in question, whether the Galatians were circumcised or not; whether they depended on their circumcision and other conformity to ceremonial institutions or not: still Christ did profit them; still by him was unconditionally secured to them the infinite profit of escape from the curse of the law, and of an endless life of happiness and glory in heaven.
This argument is equally conclusive, whether it be supposed that Christ has unconditionally rescued all men from annihilation or any other punishment. If salvation be secured to all men by Christ, then he does profit them, however they be circumcised or depend on their circumcision.
Beside the two lights in which the doctrine of annihilation hath been stated above, there is another in
which some seem to hold that doctrine; it is this, That if after God shall have used all proper means for the repentance and salvation of the wicked, they shall still remain impenitent, he will annihilate them from despair of ever bringing them to good.-Concerning this sentiment it may be inquired, what then is the curse of the law? Is it annihilation? If so, then I refer to the arguments already urged in this chapter against that idea; viz. That on that supposition endless punishment is just : That the scripture abundantly represents the punishment of the damned to consist in misery: That the punishment of all who suffer the curse of the law will be equal: That the curse of the law is the same punishment which the devils suffer, which is not annihilation: That the punishment which the finally impenitent shall suffer, will be such, that in it God will display both his wrath and power, and greater degrees of wrath and power in the case of those, with respect to whom he exercises the greatest long-suffering: which cannot be true, if the curse of the law be annihilation, as that is not an exertion of power at all, or a display of greater wrath and power in the case of one sinner than of another. If it be said, that the curse of the law is that discipline which the wicked shall suffer, before they be annihilated, I refer to what has been said, chap. ii. and iii.—If it be granted that the curse of the law is endless misery ; either it must be allowed, that endless misery will be suffered by some men; or that though endless misery be the curse of the law, Christ hath redeemed and will save all men from it, by admitting some to endless happiness, and by inflicting on others endless annihilation. With respect to this last sentiment, I beg leave to refer to the considerations already hinted in this chapter: and that the curse of the law, or all that punishment which the wicked justly deserve, whether it consist in endless
misery or any thing else, will actually be inflicted, hath been attempted to be proved in chap. iii.
On the whole; it is left with the candid and judicious to determine, whether annihilation be the curse of the law and whether that, as the curse of the law, can be reconciled with the scriptures, on either of the forementioned hypotheses.-1. That all who die in impenitence, will be annihilated, as the proper and adequate punishment of their sins in this life. 2. That annihilation was originally the curse of the law; but that Christ hath rescued all from it.-If it shall be found that annihilation in any view of it, is not the curse of the law; it will remain, that that curse consists either in that punishment which sinners actually suffer in hell; or in some temporary misery greater than that which they actually suffer in hell; or in endless misery. In which of these it does consist, shall be farther inquired in the next chapter.
THE JUSTICE OF ENDLESS PUNISHMENT CONSISTING IN MISERY.
ACCORDING to what was proposed in the close of the last chapter, I am to inquire in the first place, Whether the curse of the law, or the punishment which in the divine law is threatened against transgressors, consist in that punishment which the wicked will actually suffer in hell. That this cannot be the curse of the law, on the supposition that all men are to be saved, appears at first blush from this consideration, that some men will actually suffer that punishment: and if that punishment be the curse of the law, some men will be damned and