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appear before the judgment seat of Christ." A process which thus characterizes one aww, or period, may possibly characterize another; and the application of similar terms to the punishment denounced, by no means forbids the expectation of a similar result; nay, it authorizes us to expect it. We have sufficiently shewn, that in the use of the strongest terms, reference is always made to particular states and periods; that the words everlasting, for ever, for ever and ever, do not necessarily plunge us into the abyss of absolute eternity. Whatever shall be as permanent in its effect or operations, as the subject shall be in its durability, is always, in the language of Scripture, described as everlasting. Such decrees concerning them are, in a moral and relative sense, everlasting respecting them; but to an absolute eternity they are totally irrelevant. Absolute eternity is frequently represented as comprehending a congeries, an aggregate of lesser everlastings, if we may use the phrase. The hills are everlasting, but Jehovah is, the Rock of Ages, the Rock of Everlastings. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God; he is the same immutable being, through all the ages, periods, changes, which his creatures may experience. Finite beings, like ourselves, require such representations, that our thoughts may
repose, as it were, upon the divisions and subdivisions of eternity, and not be lost in the immensity of the subject !
From the above observations it is evident, that we are not compelled to annex to the terms death, destruction, perdition, the idea of an irrecoverable loss. They may be applicable to the future state of the wicked, in the same manner as experience manifests, they have been applied to the wickedness of the present world; and the future plans of Divine Providence may be analogous to the laws and regulations, observable among the present race of mortals. When it was said to · Adam, “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” we know, from historical facts, that the sentence was not immediately executed, and that he lived several hun. dred years after his disgrace. The punishment, therefore, consisted in his being rendered mortal, and subjected to all the painful contingencies of mortality. A thousand years, to the Lord, are but as one day. The events which he has preordained, and which must take place, at their appointed periods, being present to the divine mind, are frequently represented as being present in actual existence or operation,
We shall consider it of no small importance, if the minute examination of scriptural evidence, and the mode of reasoning we have pursued, shall evince that neither of the hypotheses under examination, have been established on a solid basis. As it is most desirable that they should both of them be false, it is pleasant to learn that the arguments adduced to support them, are extremely fallacious. It is a natural and necessary inference, from each hypothesis, that the mercy of God has its limits. They profess to mark its precise boundaries. In the one, we are astonished at the information, that the abstract principle of personal justice, should triumph over goodness and mercy; too closely imitating the self-love of revengeful man. In the other, we may discover strict equity, and there may be no just cause of complaint; but it does not teach us to admire the infinitude of the divine beneficence. We are disappointed in those expectations, which we are naturally encouraged to form, from the boundless goodness of God, and even the declarations made, upon the first appearance of the Messiah, that God sent his Son, not to condemn, but to save the World.
The removal of the above errors, does not reveal to us the whole truth, But it shuts the door against despair, and it opens the door of hope. It proves
that the Lord may still be waiting to be gracious. According to the promises of the Gospel, those who believe and obey are secure of happiness; while the Disobedient are warned of certain and dreadful, although indefinite, punishments. They are evidently excluded from the covenanted mercy of God, which is manifested in this new dispensation; and they are left in awful ignorance concerning their future destination. Dark and impenetrable mists surround them. Yet as nothing decisive is revealed, a possibility remains that these mists may not remain through all the ages of eternity. It is possible, that unbelievers and impenitent transgressors, who are not entitled to the gift of God, eternal life, may again be subjected to the laws of a new life of affliction and trial, and finally, to the condemnation of a second death. Permanent existence can alone prove a blessing, to those who have acquired a due degree of moral excellency; in whom the love of God, and of their fellow-creatures, is the ruling affection of the heart. All others are said to be dead, while they live. They have the principle of destruction in their moral natures; for the natural wages
of sin is death. But as in the present state of existence, an intermediate space between
the sentence and its execution, is allowed for the formation of a moral character, which shall be adapted to a state of felicity, it is not irrational to suppose that a similar indulgence, and similar acts of grace, may be experienced in future periods of existence. It is possible that their punishments shall prove corrective, which will answer an important end; and not an act of vindictive justice merely, which will answer no end to any being whatever.
One fact is revealed to us, amidst these obscurities, that the degrees of punishment will be correspondent to degrees of guilt; that some will be beaten with few, and some with many, stripes, according to the aggravations of the offence.
The above statement will appear novel to many, but to no one, surely, can it appear either extravagant or unfounded, and to all it must be desirable. We are permitted to argue from analogy in dubious cases, and where no positive facts forbid us. The statement is encouraged and supported by incidental expressions, both by our Saviour and his Apostles ; which appear more applicable to future acts of grace, respecting those who are exposed to a second condemnation, than to any other part of the divine economy. Our Saviour, in the affecting discourse with his dis