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But if endless punishment, infinitely dreadful as it is, be necessary to answer the highest and best ends, and to promote the greatest good of the whole, and is an important and essential part of the most wise and benevolent administration in the government of the world, then it is not only perfectly consistent with infinite goodness, but it is the dictate and exercise of goodness itself; and not to inflict this punishment, must be infinitely disagreeable and crossing to unlimited goodness, and demonstrate the want of benevolence. On this supposition, then, all the objections which have been with such confidence urged against endless punishment, from the goodness of God, as being inconsistent with that, fall to the ground, and appear highly unreasonable, childish, and absurd.
We are, indeed, poor and very inadequate judges of the ends and designs of God in all his administrations, in our present situation and in this very imperfect and sinful state, in which it is no uncommon thing for men to call God's wisdom and goodness in question, and say, Iis ways are not equal; therefore, though we were not able to see why there is to be endless punishment, and understand what wise and good ends God designs to answer by it, yet, since he has revealed to us that he will punish the wicked forever, it would be very unbecoming, yea, intolerable arrogance, for men to say no good end can be answered by it, or even doubt of the wisdom and goodness of this part of the divine administration.
But we are not left wholly in the dark with regard to this part of God's ways. In the sober exercise of our reason, assisted by divine revelation, we are able to justify God in punishing the wicked forever, and to see and rejoice in some of the infinitely important, wise, and good ends which will be answered by this awful, tremendous branch of the divine government, in which God will do terrible things. in righteousness, so that the great good that shall be produced by it will infinitely overbalance and swallow up all the evil.
The following considerations will be sufficient, it is presumed, to illustrate and establish this point:
I. All will grant it is not only just that criminals should be punished according to their deserts, but it is an expression of wisdom and goodness in a governor or judge thus to punish them, when this is suitable and necessary to maintain authority, law, and government, and deter others from the like crimes; and in this case, to refuse or neglect to punish, can proceed from nothing but a defect in true benevolence and goodness. Punishments are, therefore, found necessary in human government, in order to prevent greater evil, and promote the public good; so that every true friend to the public and the greatest common good must be a friend to such punishments.
And who can think himself able to determine that eternal punishment is not proper and necessary, as a means, to answer these ends in the divine government, which is infinitely extended and everlasting? And if he cannot certainly determine such punishments to be unnecessary and useless, he has no warrant to conclude it is not perfectly agreeable to infinite goodness to inflict it. Why is it not as much suited, and as necessary, as a means to restrain creatures from sin, as any kind or degree of punishments in human governments? Who dare say, or think, that the punishment of the fallen angels, who are reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day, has had no influence on the angels who have not sinned, and has not been a means of preserving and confirming them in obedience? And though it be certain that the redeemed from among men will, after they are made perfect, continue in obedience and holiness forever, yet this will not be effected without means, and this may, and doubtless will be one, even the everlasting punishment of the wicked, the smoke of whose punishment will rise up in their sight forever and ever. No punishment but an endless one can answer this end. God ordered punishments in Israel, even the greatest that perhaps could be inflicted in this world, viz., that transgressors should be publicly stoned to death, that others might hear, and fear, and hereby be restrained from sin. Endless punishment may be as neces. sary in the future state to answer the same end.
II. It is desirable, and of the greatest importance, that all the divine perfection - his whole character and glory, even all that is amiable and excellent in God — should be acted out and displayed in the sight of his creatures, that his friends may be under the best advantage to see it, and enjoy God, and adore and praise him forever. This is as desirable and important as it is that God should be glorified to the highest degree; for this is done only by such a manifestation and display of his excellence and perfections, and in the consequent love and praise of his creatures. And this is as desirable and important as the highest happiness of the servants of God, the members of his eternal kingdom; for their happiness must consist summarily in the knowledge and enjoyment of God in beholding his glory, and loving and glorifying him. But they know and enjoy him no further than he is manifested to them in his glorious perfection by his works; and their happiness will we in degree answerable to this display of the divine perfections, and is promoted by every thing by which God is glorified.
But the eternal punishment of the wicked is suited to promote and answer these desirable and important ends, and is necessary in order to their being accomplished most perfectly, and to the highest degree. This will appear by descending to particulars.
i. The terrible majesty of God, and the infinite dreadfulness of his displeasure and wrath, could not be fully displayed and known, did he not inflict eternal punishment on any of his creatures who deserve it.
Terrible majesty and wrath are ascribed to God in the inspired writings, as included in his amiableness and glorious perfection, his absolutely perfect character, for which he is worthy to be loved and adored. And his terribleness and wrath are equal in degree to his infinite existence and capaci. ty, and, therefore, are infinitely great and dreadful. And if it be agreeable and desirable that there should be a God of infinite terribleness and wrath, it is equally desirable that this should appear, and be discovered and displayed, in the works of God. But this cannot be done in any way or degree, unless it be by terrible acts, or works, by which evil is inflicted on creatures. If there were no possible evil in the universe, and God never did or would inflict any evil on his creatures as a punishment for their sins, there could be no possible appearance of terrible majesty in God, or of any displeasure and wrath ; for that being from whom no evil, no pain or suffering, ever did or ever will come, has no wrath, or any thing that is terrible or awful. And as God's terrible majesty appears, and is acted out, only by his inflicting evil, so this appears great in proportion to the evil inflicted. Therefore, infinite evil must be inflicted, in order to express the infinitely terrible majesty and wrath of God. Any finite evil or punishment will be no proper expression of infinite terribleness and wrath, but fall infinitely short of it. But endless punishment is a full and proper expression of this, as it is an evil infinitely terrible and dreadful, and can be inflicted by none but the infinitely powerful and terrible Jehovah, who only is able, in this way, to make a most glorious and eternal display of his infinite power and wrath. And is not the answering this
The threatening of eternal punishment against the transgressors of the law of God is, indeed, an expression of intinite terror and wrath against sin, if it be supposed it may and will be executed on any; but if the punishment threatened be only a temporary one, it is no proper expression of the terrible majesty and wrath of God. And though endless punishment be threatened, yet if it be known that it will never be executed in any instance, it will stand for nothing, and be no expression of any thing terrible ; because the evil, which alone is terrible, lies in the execution of the threatening, and not in the threatening itself, unconnected with the punishment threatened.
important end one good reason why the wicked should be punished according to their deserts ? • What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, has determined to punish these vessels of wrath, fitted to such a destruction — to punish them with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power?”
2. God's infinite displeasure and anger with sin and the sinner, and the opposition of his heart to them, are properly exhibited in punishing the sinner forever, but cannot be expressed by any temporary punishment.
Infinite hatred of that which is opposition to all good is necessarily implied in infinite benevolence and goodness, and, therefore, is essential to the divine character; and it cannot be perfect and infinitely excellent without it, but directly the contrary. It is, therefore, desirable and necessary that this should appear, and be gloriously displayed, in God's conduct towards sinners. One way to express this is in punishing the sinner; but this cannot be done by any punishment but an endless one, because the degree of hatred of sin manifested in punishing it is in proportion to the degree of evil inflicted in the punishment. An endless punishment, therefore, is necessary to answer this important end. A temporary punishment will be so far from expressing infinite opposition to sin, that it expresses the contrary, viz., that God is infinitely less displeased at sin than an infinitely perfect and good being must be; and, therefore, would be worse than no punishment, and really injure the divine character.
3. In the everlasting punishment of the wicked, the infinite dignity and worthiness of God, and excellence of his law and government, are expressed and asserted in a very advantageous and striking manner; and this is one important end and design of this punishment.
Sin is criminal, and the evil of it great, in proportion to the dignity, excellence, and worth of the Governor of the world, as has been shown. Therefore, so far as the evil of sin is discovered, in the same degree are manifested God's greatness, dignity, worthiness, and glory. But the everlasting punishment of the sinner will be, in some respects, the strongest possible expression of the infinite evil of sin, and, consequently, a bright and affecting manifestation of the infinite worthiness and excellence of God, and the sacredness of his law and government. By this punishment it will forever appear to angels and the redeemed — yea, to all intelligences — what an infinitely evil and bitter thing it is to sin against God; and by means of this, God will be eternally seen and exalted in his infinite greatness, worth, and excellence, as he could not be were there no such punishment; and it will, consequently, be the occasion of joy and praise in heaven, by which God will be honored and exalted forever.
A finite punishment, which is punishing the sinner infinitely less than he deserves, would be so far from answering this end, that it would have a contrary tendency, and reflect dishonor on God, and represent him as infinitely less honorable and excellent than he is. It hence appears, that endless punishment is as important and necessary as is the most clear manifestation of God's infinite worthiness and glory, and his asserting and maintaining his own rights, dignity, and honor, and the infinite importance and excellence of his law and government, to the greatest advantage of the universe, himself, and the creation.
4. Endless punishment is suited, and necessary, to make the brightest everlasting display of the righteousness and goodness of God.
It has been observed that infinite anger and displeasure against sin is essential to infinite goodness; and it must be further observed now, that such displeasure and anger is goodness itself, opposing, and kindled up into wrath, against that which opposes and tends to destroy what infinite goodness seeks. Infinite goodness seeks the greatest good of the whole, and, therefore, must be infinitely displeased with that which sets itself against all good; therefore, the more this displeasure and anger is manifested, the greater is the manifestation of divine goodness. But this cannot be properly and fully manifested but by inflicting infinite evil on the obstinate, confirmed enemies of all good. Hence it appears, that the greater the evil is which is inflicted on the obstinate sinner, if it be just, the greater is the display of divine goodness; and, therefore, to inflict endless punishment on such who deserve it, is a display both of the righteousness and infinite goodness of God, which could not be made in any finite punishment.
If a subject turn enemy to a whole kingdom, and do all in his power to destroy both the king and the people, and obstinately persist in his rebellion, the king must be displeased and angry in proportion to his goodness, his benevolent regard to the highest good of his kingdom; and in this case, his goodness must be exercised and acted out, in expressing his displeasure, by punishing the obstinate offender; and to neglect to punish him, or to inflict a small and light punishment, unspeakably less than his crime deserves, would be so far from expressing any goodness, that it would demonstrate the want of it; and, on the contrary, punishing him according to his desert would be the highest evidence he could give, in this case, of his benevolence and goodness.