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tion, we can understand the strong expressions of our Lord relative to future punishments, as limited to the existence of the sufferers, and suppose, that this period may be prolonged or abridged, according to the justice or mercy of God, we shall find ourselves relieved from many of the difficulties attending this perplexing and afflicting subject. The equity and necessity of punishment in general being admitted, and also the efficacy of punishment in the invisible world, when authoritatively announced, and firmly believed, the remaining points may be reconciled to every one's satisfaction. The horrible idea of endless torment is banished from the mind; and the certainty of lasting 'misery, followed by extinction of being, remains in all its force. The difficulty of apportioning the punishment of sinners to their conduct disappears, and all pretexts for incredulity are at an end. As the sinner is never to be restored to favour or happiness, but must spend his whole existence in misery, and terminate his sufferings only by annihilation, his punishment may well be styled everlasting. He may truly be said to be banished for ever from the presence of his Creator, and the society of the blessed'; and his extinction of being may be justly called eternal damnation. The execution of this dreadful sentence, is liable to no objections, that do not hold, with infinitely greater force, against eternal torment.

To these I shall subjoin another solution by a very eminent divine:* "After all, he that threatens hath still the power of execution in his own hands: for there is this remarkable difference between promises and threatenings, that he, who pro miseth, passeth over a right to another, and thereby stands obliged to him in justice and faithfulness, to make good his promise; and, if he do not, the party, to whom the promise is made, is not only disappointed, but injuriously dealt withal: in threatening it is quite otherwise. He that threatens keeps the right of punishing in his own hands, and may, without any injury to the party threatened, remit and abate as much as he pleaseth of the punishment, that he hath threatened. He is not worse but better than his word.”

On the whole, if the certainty of future punishment be undeniable; and if there be no intimation of a second state of trial, or of the restitution of sinners; in short, if purgatory be an unscriptural doctrine, the only alternative is eternal torment or final dissolution. In the latter, justice and mercy seem to be combined. It may be objected, that the promise of everlasting life must be liable to the same limited construction. But must not the continuance of our existence always depend on the will of God? Where can we seek for better security, than in his justice and mercy:

Tillotson's Sermons on Hell Torments, xxxv.

we can never be perfect in ourselves, nor indépendent of him.

The blessed shall be as the angels:” but we are told, that “angels fell from their first estate.” If we should forfeit his favour in a future life, he inight, no doubt, put an end to our being. Mercy may require this in the case of punishment: but no motive can be assigned for abridging the term of happiness, to those who have never incurred his displeasure. All this is true, in whatever sense we understand eternity.

These are the most plausible expedients, that have been devised to soften the horrors of this appalling doctrine: and I submit them to your deliberate study and candid reflections; without being able to form any decided opinion of my own.

Another question arises, as to the mode of punishment; not indeed of equal difficulty or importànce, but still imperatively demanding our most serious attention. I believe, it is generally agreed among enlightened divines, and other intelligent Christians, that the language of Scripture on this subject is allegorical. Inexpressible truths

illustrated by sensible representations. Literally taken, the descriptions are inapplicable to the state of disembodied spirits; and are employed only in accommodation to our apprehensions. The passages, which speak of hell-fire, are allusions to the valley of Hinnom, and are so expressed in the original. Here the idolatrous Israelites

caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch. It was, on that account, defiled by Josiah, who filled it with dead men's bones. It was afterwards used for a burial place, and for consuming noisome and noxious substances. It thus became a suitable emblem of the future scene of divine vengeance, among the Jews, before our Saviour's time, when it had become a proverbial expression for hell.

- The worm that dieth not, and the fire, that is not quenched” also, are taken from Isaiah, and refer to the destruction of the human body by worms and combustion. “They shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men; for their worm dieth not; neither shall their fire be quenched.”

That phrase, which occurs so often in Matthew, “ Cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” refers to festive entertainments, from which the unworthy guest was excluded, and driven into the gloomy and deserted apartments of the mansion.

On the contrary, our Lord describes the happiness of the blessed, by lying in the bosom of Abraham, as John lay in the bosom of Jesus, which was the usual posture when reclining at table. Both of these allegorical representations are introduced into this passage : “ Many shall sit down [as at table] with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer dark


ness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of

In a parallel passage, the workers of iniquity are represented as weeping and gnashing their teeth, when they see Abraham and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and themselves thrust out. The rich glutton also sees Lazarus reclining on the bosom of Abraham; and prays, as if within hearing, “that he would send Lazarus, to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue. It is manifest, that these are all parabolical expressions; that worms, fire, and darkness, are not only incapable of literal application, but also incompatible with one another; and that the emblems of heavenly bliss are equally remote from reality.

I feel no apprehension, that the prevalence of these opinions would weaken the effect of the divine judgments: for future punishments, though not eternal, would still be indefinite. The ignorant and deluded sinner' may now imagine, that, having already incurred damnation, he knows the utmost severity of his fate, and may continue to sin without apprehending any aggravation of his punishment, but rather thinking every day of criminal indulgence to be so much gain; but how must it embitter the cup of guilty pleasure, and add stings to the remorse of the cruel and unjust, to reflect, that every step, they advance in their career, is a step to hell; that every additional transgression sinks them to deeper damnation,

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