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behold the damned, in all their sin and awful misery, and doomed thus to suffer without end, and this will be fully in their sight, it will be the occasion of their rising proportionably high in their exercises of love and praise, and in the sweetest sense of redeeming love and grace. And in them will be most completely fulfilled the last words of the prophet Isaiah: “ And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh.” The inhabitants of heaven, while they are worshiping God, shall have in full view the men that for their transgressions are cast into endless burnings, and this sight will give them most clear and affecting apprehensions of the infinite evil of sin, and the just desert of it; and in this light they will abhor sin and the sinners, approve of God's righteous judgments, and see and adore the infinite goodness and astonishing grace, by which they are redeemed from this infinite depth of sin and misery, which will animate them in all their worship and praises, and unspeakably add to their increasing felicity.
The apostle Paul sets the punishment of the wicked exactly in this light. “What if God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory?” (Rom. ix. 22, 23.) Here one end of God's showing his wrath and making his power known in the eternal punishment of the wicked is represented to be, that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy; that is, that he might, by this means, make known to the redeemed the riches of his glorious grace exercised towards them in their salvation.
4. The endless punishment of the wicked being always in the sight of the redeemed, will serve to manifest to them as nothing else can, and keep constantly in their view, the power, dignity, worthiness, love, and grace of the Redeemer, who was able and willing to redeem them from such a state of sin and punishment, of infinite guilt and wretchedness; or, it will make a bright and eternal display of the glorious character and infinite worth of the Mediator.
They who suppose it would not be just to punish sinners with everlasting destruction, or that it is inconsistent with the goodness of God to punish them forever, make redemption a very small and inconsiderable matter. It is really, according to this, redemption from little or no evil, as it was nothing very great to make atonement for sins which did not deserve infinite evil, and which could not be punished with everlasting destruction consistent with the goodness of God, and which his goodness obliged him to pardon, and so make the sinner happy, had there been no Redeemer; for men cannot be redeemed from evil which they do not deserve, or which cannot be inflicted on them consistent with the goodness of God. This sinks and hides the character of a Redeemer, and at once reduces redemption to very little or nothing. The actual existence of eternal punishment, in the sight of all intelligent creatures, will serve to confute these unworthy notions of God and of redemption, and is necessary in order to do it most effectually, and to set the Redeemer in an infinitely more important and glorious light forever. His infinite greatness and worth, the value and preciousness of his blood, appear in that, by his sufferings and obedience unto death, he could atone for such sins, and deliver from such punishment, and merit and procure pardon and favor for such infinitely guilty, ill-deserving creatures. And the almighty power and wonderful condescension, love, and grace of Christ will appear in a most affecting light, in his being able and willing to pluck such vile, obstinate sinners from those everlasting burnings, and will, by this punishment, be kept in fresh remembrance, and cause his glorious character and works to be more and more known and celebrated forever.
And all this will be in favor of the redeemed, and will add unspeakably to their happiness; for the more glorious Christ appears to them, the more his dignity and worth come into their view, and the greater their redemption appears to be, and the clearer sight they have of the love and grace of the Redeemer, and the more indebted and obliged they are to him, and the higher he is exalted in their salvation, so much the more happy they must be, and with proportionably greater sweetness and joy will they forever sing, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, forever and ever."
Upon the whole, it appears, from the view we have had of this subject, so far from being inconsistent with the goodness of God to punish sinners forever, that the ends of divine goodness are answered by this to the highest possible degree, and as they could not be without it, or in any other possible way; so that it is utterly inconsistent with infinite goodness not to punish them thus. This eternal punishment reflects such light on the divine character, government, and works, especially the work of redemption, and makes such a bright display of the worthiness and grandeur of the Redeemer, and of divine love and grace to the redeemed, and is the occasion of so much happiness in heaven, and so necessary in order to the highest glory and greatest increasing felicity of God's everlasting kingdom, that, should it cease, and this fire could be extinguished, it would, in a great measure, obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed, and be an irreparable detriment to God's eternal kingdom, most contrary to infinite wisdom and good
And, however great an evil the endless misery of so many millions is, in itself considered, yet, it being not only just, but the necessary means of such infinite glory and hap piness to the kingdom of God, in this view, and in comparison with this, it sinks into nothing, and is wholly absorbed, as to the evil of it, and lost in the unspeakable glory and felicity of which it is the occasion, and is, on the whole, most desirable, and really becomes, in this connection, an important good, essential to the perfection of the divine government and the highest glory and happiness of God's eternal kingdom. How inconsiderate and unreasonable, then, must they be who disbelieve the doctrine of endless punishment, and oppose it as inconsistent with infinite goodness!*
* Some have argued from the aversion of a tender parent or fond mother to the pain and sufferings of their children, by being cast into the fire, etc., and from the desire that men profess to have that all men should be saved, that these have more goodness than they ascribe to God who believe he will cast multitudes of his creatures into everlasting burnings ; and hence infer that endless punishment is inconsistent with infinite goodness.
If there were any weight or propriety in this way of arguing, it proves that God never did, nor ever will, inflict any evil on his creatures as much as it does that he will not punish them forever. It proves, for instance, that he did not rain fire and brimstone on the inhabitants of Sodom, and cause them, both old and young, to welter in the keenest anguish till they expired; and that he does not inflict those excruciating pains and tortures on children and others, which tender parents and friends often behold with the utmost aversion, distress, and anguish. And since this way of arguing is as much against known facts as it is against endless punishment, it is certainly just as consistent with the existence of the latter as of the former, and therefore is not worthy of the least regard. And when any one pretends to argue in this way, he discovers himself to be a very shallow reasoner, or a stranger to uprightness and honesty. Had Abraham reason to think he had more goodness than his Maker, because he was shocked at the proposal of destroying the inhabitants of Sodom, and interceded for them :
When parents in Israel had a disobedient son, they were commanded to bring him forth into public, and witness against him, that he might be stoned to death. (Deut. xxi. 18-21.) If the parent's love and tenderness towards their children led them to refuse to execute this law, or to look upon it hard and cruel, and reluct at the thought of having one of their children put to death in this manner, had they reason to think the God of Israel severe and cruel, or that he had less goodness than themselves :
A bencrolent man may wish and pray for the salvation of all those whom he sees, or that do exist in the world, as their salvation is, in itself considered, desirable, and he knows not that this is inconsistent with the general good. But if any one, or a number, should be pointed out to him, who deserve to perish, and he should know that this was necessary for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom, he would not ask nor desire that they should be saved, unless his benevolence were very imperfect. When a king or judge condemns a criminal to death, and sees the sentence executed because it is necessary for the public good, is not this an act of goodness? Or shall we think the tender mother, wife, or child of the criminal, who wishes, and, in agonies of pity, implores, his pardon and reprieve, and cannot bear the thought of his execution, to have and show more benevolence and goodness than the king or judge ? And if these should boast of their benevolence, and represent the wise and good judge as inesorably cruel, they would appear to the friends of good government and the public good just as do the advocates for universal salvatioa when they boast of this as the benevolent plan, and represent the opposers of it as uncharitable, inhuman, and cruel.
Questions and Answers relating to the Doctrine of Endless
Upon the subject, as it has been now stated, the following queries may arise in the minds of some, which ought to be answered:
I. Though it be granted that the blessed will receive great advantage by the eternal destruction of such vast numbers of the human race, and there will be unspeakably more happiness in the kingdom of God than could be were there no such punishment, yet how can it be consistent with goodness, or even impartial justice, to make part of the human race happy at the expense of the rest, and by means of their eternal misery? Would it not be much better for all to be free from misery, and have a less and moderate share of happiness, than for some to be so very miserable forever, as the means of the greater happiness of others? And would not this be more agreeable to a benevolent, generous mind? Would it not much rather choose to have a less share of happiness, than to enjoy more at such amazing expense and cost of his fellow-creatures, even their everlasting misery?
Ans. 1. Since they who shall be miserable forever do deserve this punishment, neither they nor any creature will have any reason to complain because they are thus punished; and if God can, by executing justice on them, answer great and important ends to himself, his government and kingdom, which could not be obtained, but must be forever lost, without it, and can render his kingdom unspeakably more happy and glorious than it could otherwise be, surely all true friends to God and his kingdom, who desire and seek the greatest good of the whole, must be pleased and greatly rejoice in it.
2. Since the good of which endless punishment will be the means will be so vastly great as immensely to overbalance the evil, so that it will be as nothing compared with the good, every degree of evil producing millions of millions of degrees of good and happiness, and there would be, on the whole, infinitely less good should this punishment cease, it must be the dictate and choice of infinite benevolence thus to punish; and that must be a very partial, imperfect, defective goodness, which, in this case, would give up the greatest general good for the sake of an infinitely less good to some unworthy individuals. Such a disposition is not true benevolence, but the contrary. This has been observed before, and it is presumed is evident beyond all possible doubt. Therefore,
3. The generous, benevolent mind, which desires and seeks the greatest good of the whole, the glory of God, and the greatest glory and happiness of his kingdom, must choose and be pleased with that just, eternal misery of the wicked, which is so necessary to promote this to the highest degree, and the greater and more generous and benevolent the mind is, the more pleasure will it take in such a plan; and he only, whose heart is contracted, partial, and selfish, and consequently an enemy to the greatest general good, will object and oppose it.
All will allow there may be wisdom and goodness in subjecting a person to a great degree of deserved evil, in order to promote his unspeakably greater good, so that the evil he suffers becomes the means of his immensely greater happiness forever, and that this is vastly preferable to no suffering and misery. In this case, therefore, the misery suffered is, on the whole, a good; it being the necessary ineans of making him unspeakably more happy than he could have been, had he not suffered. For that which is the necessary means of so much good, though in itself undesirable and evil, is, in this connection, a real good.
This may serve to illustrate the case before us. Here, in deed, the person who suffers does not enjoy the good of which his sufferings are the means, but the happy part of the community. Nevertheless, when we consider that they who are miserable suffer justly, and this becomes the means of infinitely greater good to the whole, we must be sensible that, as in the case proposed, suffering is much preferable to no suffering, and, on the whole, becomes a great good; it must be so in the case under consideration. For the evil is, in itself, no greater from those particular persons suffering, and not others; and the good, of which those sufferings are the means, is as great and desirable as if they who enjoy it had themselves been the subjects of the sufferings, were this possible.