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has done, it is surely not impossible that suffering will never cease under his government. Where then have you learned that He is too good to punish the wicked ? God is indeed infinitely good—He himself asserts it. But if you believe this, why will you not believe when he asserts that the wicked shall be punished forever? Is one of his declarations more worthy of credit than another? But he has never informed you that he is too good to inflict eternal punishment. You have not learned in the bible that this is his character. Where then did you obtain this extraordinary acquaintance with your Maker ? You obtained it no where. There is no such God as your imagination has conceived. The fact that you would save all men of every description of character, is no evidence that He will. You would restore your dying neighbor to healthi, relieve his wise from the agony of separation and his children from orphanage and want; but the most mercful God decides differently, and allows disease, poverty and death to fill the world with tears and suffering. No benevolent man would be the author of so much misery. The unlimited knowledge of God enables him to perceiv
equity, wisdom and goodness in events which no human being would imagine, without a revelation, to be either kind or just. Such is the nature of eternal punishment. It is an order of God's government inseparable from the most important interests of his kingdom, and which he will maintain, however much the sympathies of our frail and erring nature may revolt at its execution. Why then do you not credit the frequent and explicit testimony of his word on this momentous subject? What do you gain by your ceaseless efforts to evade the truth, by your unprofitable zeal in disseminating error? What advantage have you even now, in the things whereof you will one day be ashamed ? I put the question to excite reflection. The condemnation to which sin exposes us, may be avoided by repentance. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the secrets of men, by that man whom he bath ordained; on which account, he commands all men to repent, as an adequate and indispensable security against the sentence of indignation and wrath. But he, who denies the justice and possibility of everlasting punishment, makes himself ignorant of the nature and tendency of sin, ignorant of his own cha
racter and of his God; for be beholds not the moral image of man reflected from the lake of despair, and turns not with contrition and gratitude to the cross of Christ. The evidence which he smothers, the light which he extinguishes, is essential to his pardon and eter
“ Consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver."
THE NATURE OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT.
MATTHEW XXV. 30.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer
darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing
ERRONEOUS views and destructive prejudices have extensively prevailed in consequence of misunderstanding the language of the bible in reference to future punishment. Are the wicked to be literally destroyed ? is their existence to terminate with this life? are their sufferings merely mental? are they to be punished in flames of fire? These questions which have been agitated with much interest, and which have received various solutions, it is the design of this discourse to answer.
I. Future punishment does not consist in annihilation. Such a conclusion, the literal import
of destruction, of perishing, of perdition, justifies. “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction.” “ And shall utterly perish in their own corruption." But the
But the expressions are figurative. They do not denote an abolition or annihilation of the soul, but moral ruin or the destruction of character and happiness. The same usage prevails in all languages. They are often said to be destroyed, who are only ruined in reputation, property and influence. That the literal sense of such terms is not applicable to future punishment, appears from the distinctions which are made in its degrees of severity, and from numerous expressions which represent lo-t men to be in a state of conscious existence. It is also found from an examination of the phraseology in question, that it is obviously used by the sacred writers in a metaphorical sense. “Whose judgment now a long time lingereth not, and their damnation (destruction) slumbereth not." The apostle refers to a punishment to be inflicted at the judgment day, when God will display his indignation by a marked distinction in its degrees of severity. “ But chiefly them that walk after the flesh, in the lust of concupiscence and despise government.:*