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sinner, and it may be answered in the same way,—'Better let him live as an example to the rest, especially as a mediator shall be provided for him, in compassionate consideration of the alleviating circumstances attendant upon, his fall. But if he and his sinful posterity shall reject the offered mercy after a season of probation has been allowed them, then shall they be openly condemned, so as to exhibit to the whole material universe, what the fallen angels shall exhibit to the spiritual universe, An Eternal MonuMent OF THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF TRANSGRESSION.
Thus, then, we arrive at the answer demanded of us, to the question, whether it would not be more accordant with the gracious character of God, to annihilate the sinner at the last day, rather than to deliver him to an eternity of wretchedness. For it is easy to perceive that it becomes, in this view of the subject, a matter which belongs not to the interests of our small planet alone, but to the safety and the happiness of unnumbered millions of planets ; and it is a most probable supposition, that the eternal misery of the wicked will be so ordered by the infinite justice and love of the Almighty Sovereign of the boundless universe, as to secure a vastly greater amount of felicity and joy. It would be weakness and not mercy in the all perfect Governor, to endanger the safety of thousands for the sake of terminating the misery of one. The good of the whole community is the'great object of the government of heaven, as well as of every government on earth ; but the King of kings possesses this perfection in his system, that the general good is not obtained at the price of a single soul, until that soul has rejected the blessed atonement rendered for it by his own Son upon the cross—until that soul has resisted every invitation of his Holy Spirit, scorned the offers of his grace, and passed a whole life-time in bold and heedless transgression, in despite alike of the promises and menaces of God, in despite of the inducements of eternal joy and the terrors of eternal agony, in despite of all that the mercy of heaven and the privileges of earth can afford for the work of its salvation.
2. Having thus endeavored to dispose of all the difficulties and objections, with which the doctrine of everlasting punishment is thought to be encumbered, we have next to consider the quality of the wretchedness to be endured throughout eternity by the impenitent sinner. And here we have no other information to direct us, than the imperfect analogy of nature, and the powerful metaphors of the Word of God. We know enough of the human heart to estimate, in some degree at least, a few of the necessary appendages to the condition of the damned ; and these, together with the inferences from Holy Writ ,we may briefly arrange under the divisions of society, occupation, mental sufferings, and bodily torment.
1. The society of the wicked in this world is greatly favored by the intermixture of the good; and hence the decencies, the pleasures, the proprieties, and the kindnesses •of life, which afford a sort of counterfeit imitation of happiness and virtue. Besides which, the restraints of the law, and the still stronger influence of public opinion, go very far towards confining vice within certain outward bounds of interest, of civility, and of artificial refinement. But what may be anticipated in a condition where the wicked are cast together without any mingling of good, without any restraint of character, any check of passion, any incitement to sobriety, any inducement to moderation. Where evil spirits possess the sole control, and stimulate to maddening violence all the wild excesses of hatred and strife— where no amusement, no elegant trifling, no sentimental folly can live a moment in the turbulent scene of boisterous contention—where sin shall be stripped of all her tinsel finery, her splendid trappings, her sweet seductions, and'shall triumph in the dire deformity of open, clamorous, shameless, disgusting, and atrocious abomination. Exceedingly defective must be any definite idea which the mind can form of such a community; but the revolting debauchery of the midnight bacchanalian crew, the lawless riot of the robber's den, the bloody violence of murder, the cowardly vengeance of assassination, the prowling baseness of the thief, the burning lust of the adulterer, the busy tongue of the liar and the slanderer, the rage of jealousy, the brutal despotism of ferocious strength, the din of curses and of blasphemy, the phrensied intervals of insanity and madness, the sullen moanings of remorse, and the howlings of despair,— all these, fearful as the combination may appear, can probably afford but a faint idea of the elements of which the society of the wicked shall consist, after the sentence of their hopeless condemnation has been passed upon them.
2. As to the occupation of these wretched beings, we can only conjecture that their principal efforts will be to heighten the woes of each other, and to seek, in this demoniac effort, some alleviation of their own. Hence, instead of going about to do good, which is the blessed occupation of the saint, they will go up and down, to and fro, seeking whom they may torment, seeking whom they may devour. No respite will there be allowed the miserable—not even the poor comfort of weeping alone. But the bitter taunt, and the cruel mockery, and the sharp sarcasm, and the biting reproach, the fiendish laughter at the agony of each other, and the restless activity with which they shall strive to invade every retreat, and invent new pangs to torture their wretched companions—these will probably form the chief part of that dreadful occupation which shall employ them throughout eternity.
3. Their mental sufferings, who can describe? To look back, with gnawing desire, upon the pleasures of earth, now gone for ever—to look upwards with sickening jealousy, upon the glorious felicity of the righteous—to look forward upon the terrible continuation of their misery—thousands of years gone by, and not a ray of hope—millions of years, and not one beam of expectation—myriads upon myriads of ages, and still the same—to think upon the offers of salvation so often made to them in vain, to remember the gracious feelings which they resisted for the sake of the puerile fashions and follies of the world—to meditate upon the unbelief and hardness of heart which they encouraged, until conscience became seared, and the soul was utterly blinded to its danger, and to feel the maddening conviction of the mercy and the love which would have saved them from this tremendous doom, if they had not wilfully rushed upon their ruin—to compare the mild radiance of heaven with the swarthy fires of hell—to imagine the happiness of the blest in contrast with their own unutterable anguish—to wear out the mind in the very intensity of distraction and despair, until some burst of blasphemy, or paroxysm of rage is welcomed as an alleviation—this, horrible as it seems to us, is perhaps but a slight approach to the condition of their mental agony, in the regions of that destruction which cuts them off for ever from the Lord and from the glory of his power.
4. And if to these there be indeed the addition of bodily torment, according to the literal sense of Scripture—if, as some have conjectured, the fiery comets be the appointed receptacles of their wretchedness, in whose eccentric orbits they shall be hurled from the sun to the freezing extremities of the planetary universe—if, as they approach the various worlds in their swift career, they are known to be a community of the damned, and thus remind the just of the awful condition of the rebel soul—if, at times, the shout of demoniac exultation, mingled with the cry of horror and despair, be suffered to visit the peaceful abodes of the blest, from these naming orbs of wrathful indignation—if, in the clear vision which the spiritual world shall bestowj the rolling of the fiery lake be seen, betwixt the volumes of thick sulphureous vapors which surround them—if the wretched inmates of those dreadful regions, thus made a living spectacle to the universe for an eternal warning, do indeed experience the congregated force of every natural instrument of bodily torment—fire unquenchable, reptiles of prey formed for the purpose of judicial vengeance, wreathing their serpent folds round every limb, and darting their sharp fangs into the quivering flesh, at pleasure— tempests of hail, inflicting heavy wounds and bruises upon their unsheltered bodies—an atmosphere of thick and palpable darkness, only relieved by the fitful flashings of the lurid flames—tortures that shall force them to gnaw their own tongues with pain, and every variety of unimagined wretchedness which the Word of God has threatened, and his truth and power seem pledged to execute upon them—if these images afford any correct idea of their lot, O ! who can delineate or describe the dreadful sum of their aggregated miseries? What mind can dwell on such a destiny without a chill of horror? What heart is bold enough to risk the experience of that hell, which the Sovereign Governor of the universe has prepared for the ungodly? O! believe it, my fellow sinners, believe it— though the task of describing it be totally beyond our powers—It is A Fearful Thing To Fall Into The