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CHAPTER XII.

ARGUMENT FROM THE BENEVOLENCE OF GOD AS BEING

INCONSISTENT WITH ETERNAL PUNISHMENT RE-
FUTED- ANNIHILATION NOT THE PUNISHMENT OF
THE WICKED, AND IS OPPOSED BY UNIVERSALISM
RECAPITULATION.

THE BENEVOLENCE of God is regarded by the Universalists as affording in itself an unanswerable argument against the eternity of fature punishment. But they should prove, what they never have yet done, 1. that God's benevolence can be exerted in behalf of those under future suffering, who, in this world, contemptuously and continuedly rejected the offers of mercy, without doing violence to his other attributes, such as, holiness, justice, and truth.

“A God all-mercy is a God unjust."'. We know Him who hath said, “He that being often reproved, bardeneth his neck, shall be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy." Prov. xxix. 1. 2. That it is either expressly or impliedly declared in Scripture, if other ineans fail, such an act of benevolence will be put forth. Without these points are satisfactorily estaba lished, all that can be said in favour of them is mere declamation-vain "as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” Even could it be proved that God can act thus, without au impeachment of character, a position, which we broadly deny, the question still remains to be setileu, will he positively and assuredly thus act? Is the certainty of it so clearly ascertained as to exclude every shadow of doubt? Nothing short of the most unqualified assurance of this, can satisfy the mind tremblingly alive to its future and eternal destiny; for the Diety can do many things, not in the slightest degree inconsistent with any of his attributes, which we ourselves know He does not think proper to do. How utterly groundless, how extremely, presumptuous, then, is the expectation, that He will do what He has not only not promised, nor given the least intimation that he is willing, to do; but against the performance of which stand in firm and fearful array his justice, truth and holiness; and yet such is the expectation of Universalisin as it regards the exercise of Divine benevolence in the future restoration of the damned.

But we object, on our part, to the use of this argument by the Universalists, because 1. It destroys the very idea of the future state being probationary ; and they must give up either one or the other. 2. It proves that no means are used in the future state for salvable purposes, or that they are ineffectual; otherwise the benevolence of God would not be resorted to. 3. It is only conjectural ; unwarranted by the conduct of Providence, which allows of suffering of various kinds in this world, and even of pain or punishment of a limited duration in the future world itself, according to the showing of a part of the Universalists themselves. Now the argument from the BENEVOLENCE of the Deity, if of any force at all, is as much against limiled, as it is against eternal suffering. For if it would lead the Almighty to terminate the pains of the damned, it would not have allowed pain ever to have entered into this world, nor to be inflicted in the slightest measure on the outcasts from Divine Mercy in the future world. But his benevolence did not prevent

the introduction of misery into this world, nor will it prevent the infliction of it, for ages of ages, on the finally impenitent, as the Restorationists themselves allow. So that by resorting to the mere benevolence of God, without reference to the personal qualifications of the parties concerned, to uphold their system, they prove too much and so prove nothing. The benevolence of God, therefore, is not inconsistent with punishment, as facts sufficiently demonstrate, and the mere duration of that punishinent cannot alter the case.

The following extracts place this subject in the clearest light, and must carry conviction to every candid mind.

- The known principles of God's administration, in the moral government of the world, involve suffering ; and this suffering, all acknowledge, is in consequence of sin.

“ If suffering for sin, in some degree, is not inconsistent with God's goodness, who can determine when and where that suffering must stop, lest it should encroach upon that goodness? God has taught us, by his administration, that sin deserves and receives punishment; and he alone can determine the extent of that punishment. For myself, I know of no argument, drawn from the mercy, love, or goodness of God, against eternal punishment, but such as will, in principle, bear with equal force, against any degree of punishment, and indeed against every kind of suffering.

“If it is said that God must be deficient in power or in goodness, if he permit the eternal misery of any of his creatures, I will prove, by the same reasoning, that God must be deficient in power or in goodness, or he would not have permitted misery at all. If it is said that a God of infinite mercy cannot delight in the eternal misery of his creatures; I answer, a God of infinite mercy cannot delight in the sufferings of any of his creatures for one hour. If any one should say, 'If I could prevent it, I would not suffer any one to be miserable forever ; much more then will not God, who has all power, and whose mercy exceeds mine, as much as the heavens are higher than the earth ;'-in reply I might say, If I could prevent it, I would not permit misery at all; I would put an end to all the suffering of afflicted humanity every where; much more then God will not permit suffering, who has all power, and whose mercy exceeds mine, as much as the heavens are higher than the earth. But God does not put an end to suffering. Affliction and sorrows are universally experienced; notwithstanding the infinite power and mercy of God. Thus we see, all the the force of the foregoing arguments, against eternal pun. ishment, bears with equal weight against matter of fact. Therefore these arguments are unsound, and should be given up. Every modest man, who is not disposed to set up the results of his own reasoning against the known principles of God's moral government, will, 'when he finds those results and these principles opposed to each other, give up the former and submit to the latter --"Let God be true, and every man a liar.” But you may say,

- Limited suffering is consistent with God's goodness, because he will over-rule all for the good of the sufferers. They will not, in the end, be the losers for their sufferings, but rather the gainers.' To this I answer - (1.) This destroys entirely the penal sanctions of God's law. It is saying to man, If you transgress, you shall be punished in such a measure, and to such a degree, as shall, in the end, make you the happier for all your suffering. Who does not see that this is liolding out a reward for transgression, rather than a penalty ?

(2) Could not God have made man just as happy, without causing him to suffer at all? If you say he could not, you limit bis power ; if you say he has the power and not the will, you limit his goodness.

“However, you will say, 'God, for reasons best known to himself, sees it most proper to permit some suffering

in the world, and over-rule it all for the general good." True; and for ought this reasoning proves to the contrary, God sees it best that the impenitent transgressor, voluntarily living and dying impenitent, should be 'punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of ile Lord, and from the glory of his power.'

“But you cannot see how this can possibly be for the best; and you have many reasons in your mind against it. Neither can I see, how it should be best to have a system involving suffering at all; and I have many reasons in my mind against such a system. Therefore, I never should believe any kind of suffering necessary, if God had not declared it necessary by his word or works, And it is no matter of wonder that I should not have seen the propriety of this ; for I have never been the Lord's counsellor. He never has shown me all the secret springs, the wonderful operations, the nice connexions, and the distant bearings, of his moral system. Neither has he shown them to you, nor to any of his creatures. How presuming is it, then, for us to pretend, hy our inferential reasoning from the attributes of God, to determine how far the penalty of his law extends ? That God's mercy endureth for ever, we must all acknowledge. But what is, or is not, consistent with his mercy, God alone must determine. He has determined it. The inspired Psalmist, in an appeal to God himself, has sail, “ Unto thee O God, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his works."(3)

If the Divine Benevolence fail them, as they are resolved by some one means or another to abolish the eternily of future punishment, perhaps, the Universalists, or some of them at least, will advocate annihilation, or a continued state of unconsciousness. If so, the actuality of Universal salvation is given up. If it be said, that on the soul's being annihilated, or rendered unconscious, it is

(8) Dr. Fisk's discourse.

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