« PreviousContinue »
and almost all mankind lost, notwithstanding all that has been done for the salvation of men. Surely it cannot be for the greatest good of the whole to have the most of mankind destroyed, and but few have the benefit of redemption.
Ans. 1. No man is in any measure able to determine what number or what proportion of the whole must be saved or lost, in order to answer the most important ends, the ends that have been mentioned to be obtained by endless punishment, and many more which are now out of our sight. If we knew the exact proportion between the saved and the lost, and that the former were few compared with the latter, this would be no more a ground of objection against the doctrine of endless punishment than if the proportion was directly the other way. And to suppose that the less number of those that shall be punished is so much the better, seems to be giving up the doctrine of endless punishment, and to suppose it would be, on the whole, best to have none lost. Though we are utterly incompetent judges in this matter, infinite wisdom can determine it, without a possibility of a mistake. God knows what proportion of the human race, even the exact number, and what individuals may be saved, consistent with the greatest good of the whole, and how many must be punished forever in order to answer the best and most important ends. And all have reason to acquiesce in his disposal, and to rejoice that it will be determined by infinite wisdom and goodness. And all will rejoice in this who are friends to righteousness, wisdom, and benevolence; that is, friends to God and his uncontrolla. ble dominion. Man has no right or ability to judge what is best in this case, or what will in fact be the issue, any further than God hath revealed it in his Word.
Ans. 2. We have no reason to conclude from the Word of God that but few, or a very small part of mankind, will be saved; but there is reason to believe that many more of the human race will be happy than miserable.
It has indeed been believed by many, that the number of the redeemed will be very small compared with those who will perish, partly from several passages of Scripture, and partly from what has taken place in the world hitherto; as the church of Christ has been comparatively very small, and but few have appeared to walk in the narrow way which leadeth unto life. But when those Scriptures and this fact are carefully examined and compared with other parts of Scripture, it will doubtless appear that no such thing can be inferred, but the contrary.
Our Savior says, “ Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” And, * Many are called, but few chosen.” And he calls his disciples a little flock. Christ in these words speaks of the then present time, and of what took place at that time, and does not say that but few of mankind, compared with the whole, shall ever find the way to life, and be chosen to salvation, or that his church shall always be a little flock; but he has said the contrary. He represents his church by a “grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field, which, indeed, is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a great tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." And he likens it “unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Denoting that, though it was small in its beginning, it should increase and become great, and fill the world. And the same thing is represented in Daniel, by a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. And the same is expressed in the following words : " And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” According to this, the time is coming when all nations shall be the servants of Christ, and the world shall be full of his people, agreeably to many other prophecies of the same thing, too many to be recited here. “ And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
They who have attended well to the Bible must be sensible that the time is yet to come in which salvation by Christ shall tạke place, as it never has yet done. His church shall flourish and fill the world, and Satan's kingdom be utterly destroyed in the earth ; and this happy and glorious day of salvation shall continue a thousand years. In this thousand years of peace and prosperity, when the people shall be all righteous, mankind will naturally propagate and multiply as they never yet have done, and fill the whole face of the earth, so that there will be many thousand times more living in the world at one time than there ever yet have been. It is easy to show that, in such a state, many more people will exist in a thousand years than have existed before, yea, many thousands to one, supposing this thousand years shall be the seventh thousand years of the world, which supposition is agreeable to Scripture. If the greater part that live in the preceding six thousand years do perish, yet if all, or most, who shall exist in the seventh thousand years shall be saved, there will, on the whole, be many more of mankind saved than lost; yea, it may be, many thousands to one. But as, this does not so immediately affect the subject we are considering, it is needless to enlarge upon it here.
The reader has now the doctrine of endless punishment laid before him, as it is revealed and abundantly asserted in the Word of God; and the justice of this punishment, and necessity for it, in order to answer the most important purposes, to render the work of redemption most complete and glorious, and promote the highest good and happiness of the universe, so that it is a real good and necessary part of the most wise and benevolent plan; and, therefore, most pleasing to infinite goodness, and best suited to excite the joy and praise of every benevolent mind.*
* And in this light may be seen the absurdity of that enthusiastic harangue of Mr. Jeremiah White, who lived in the last century, lately published in Bose ton, (see " Salvation for all Men," p. 1-4,) which may well be considered as the very dregs of the enthusiasm and religious frenzy which took place, to so great a degree, in his day. He was himself so pleased and charmed with this scheme of universal salvation, that in a conceit of his own superior benevolence he caressed himself with fanatic complacence and joy, and then exclaims, “ He is not a Christian, he is not a man, he hath put off the tenderness and bowels of a man, he hath lost humanity itself, he hath not so much charity as Dives expressed in hell, that cannot cry out, This is good news, if it be true!”
As Mr. White cannot now answer for himself, his voucher, who introduces this as an instance of the author's ingenuity, piety, and benevolence, and all the advocates for temporary future punishment, in opposition to endless, may be desired to answer and clear up the following difficulties, which seem to attend their scheme:
If he who has any benevolence will be pleased with the news that there is no suc thing as endless punishment, will he not be glad to hear that there is no future punishment at all? And will he not be sorry that there ever have been, and still are, so much sin and misery in the world ? and must not this be matter? of grief to him to all eternity, wheneyer he thinks of it? And why must not the infinitely benevolent Mind be in the same way affected with this to an infinitely greater degree?
According to this, it would be much best and most pleasing to the benevolent to have no such thing as sin or misery in the universe. Why, then, is there any such thing? How can it be accounted for, that they should take place under the all-perfect government of an infinitely benevolent Being ?
If it is said, these have taken place under God's government, when he was able to have prevented their existence, in order to answer some good and important ends which could not be accomplished without them, so that it is, on the whole, best they should exist, as they have done, and will issue in the greatest general good, it will be then asked, if such a degree of sin and misery as has taken place, and will take place to the end of the world and after the day of judg. ment, in a long, though temporary punishment, be necessary to promote the highest general good, why may not endless punishment be as necessary, and more so, to promote the highest possible general good? Who is able to say, who dare say, it is not? If any presume to do it, let them answer what has been said above, to prove the contrary; and, which is of more importance, let
them show that it is not declared in sacred writ, or let them answer it to their Maker at the last day.
It is further and more particularly asked, why there will be any future punishment. What end will this great temporary evil answer?
If it be answered, that this is necessary in order to reclaim and bring to repentance those who in this life were obstinate and persevered in rebellion, it is still asked, why God does not, by the power of his spirit and grace, bring all to repentance and conversion in this life: He does it in some instances, and he is equally able to do it in every instance, and bring all to close with Christ in this world; why, then, does he not do it, and effectually prevent all that dreadful scene of sin and misery which must take place in a long punishment? Such a punishment has no more tendency to bring them to repentance than the means used with them in this world ; yea, it may be made evident it hath not so much, if any; and it is certain no means will cffect it, without divine influence, and God must, by this, convert them, after all, and save them by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Why, then, is not this always done in this life, if done at all, and all future punishment prevented :
If it be said, this future, temporary punishment is necessary for God to show his wrath against sin, and his justice in punishing the sinner according to his desert; and as he can deserve only a temporary punishment, when he has suffered that, he will be delivered. Mr. White says something like this, when he speaks of “all the methods which God uses in his holy and glorious wisdom and prudence, in giving way to the entrance of sin, and then inflaming the anguish of it by the law, that he may thereby have occasion to glorify his wrath against it, and his justice, and so make his way to the more glorious illustration of his grace and love in the close." This excites the following observations and questions :
1. If sin deserves an endless punishment, then in order to God's showing his displeasure, so as "to glorify his wrath against it, and his justice,” he must inflict such a punishment. To inflict an infinitely less punishment than the sinner deserves, will be so far from glorifying the wrath and justice of God, that it will make a contrary appearance, and look as if God hated sin infinitely less than he does, and that sin does not deserve endless punishment, and that justice is satisfied with something infinitely short of it. How, then, can God glorify his wrath against sin, and his justice, in punishing it, unless he inflict an endless punishment ?
If the subject of a king should blaspheme 'him, and seek to ruin his whole kingdom, and the king should punish him only by laying a fine on him of one penny, would not the language of this be, that he looked on his character and kingdom to be worth no more than one penny, and that in this punishment was
a proper expression of his wrath against the criminal, and a glorious exercise of ¢ justice, this being all he deserved? Would this be glory, or disgrace?
Let it be proved, then, that no sinner can deserve endless punishment, before any thing is said of God's glorifying his wrath and justice by a temporary punishment.
2. If sin deserves only a temporary punishment, then, when the sinner has suffered this, even as much as he deserves, justice is fully satisfied, and he has no more ill desert, and must, in justice, be delivered. How, then, does his deliverance and salvation make a "more glorious illustration of God's grace and love in the close" than if the creature had never sinned, and had not been punished? Yea, is there any grace and mercy manifested in this ? Surely, no. For grace and mercy is favor showed to the ill deserving, and not doing what justice requires; and if the sinner has suffered all th punishment he deserved, so that his guilt and ill desert is entirely done away, and he has no more of it than Adam had when he was first created, what need has he of the atonement of Christ and salvation by him, any more than Adam had before he sinned? What need then was there of Christ, in order to the salvation of all men, and what hand or glory will he have in the deliverance and salvation of those who have suffered all they deserve for their sins ?
These questions and observations arise from its being allowed and said, in order to account for the sin and misery that have actually taken place, that God could have prevented their existence, but did not, because they are necessary to answer good and important ends. This is allowed by Mr. White, and many others, who deny the endless duration of future punishment.
But there are others who take another method to account for the introduction of sin and consequent misery, and their continuance in the world ; and to make this consistent with divine goodness, while they deny that endless punishment is consistent with it, they say, God could not prevent sin and consequent misery, consistent with the moral agency and freedom of man; and, therefore, in consequence of creatures' being made and continued free agents, sin was introduced ; and as the methods taken to reclaim men in this life are, in many instances, ineffectual, they will be punished in the future state, till they submit and obtain deliverance.
This notion is so inconsistent with the Bible, and contrary to all reason, that it is difficult to conceive how any man who has the use of these should embrace it, and rest satisfied. The Scriptures represent God as supreme, and infinitely above control, doing what he pleases in heaven and on earth, and having the hearts of men in his hands, directing and turning them as he pleases, even turning them from sin to holiness, and working in them to will and to do, etc.; and that God does all this consistent with their freedom and accountableness for all their moral exercises and conduct. And what reasonable man would choose to have a God who is at the control and beck of his creatures, not able to give them their rights and maintain his own supremacy, so that he is obliged, in a great degree, to give up his dominion into their hands, and suffer them to introduce that which he would with all his heart prevent, were he able ?
But not to dwell on this, which is not directly to the present purpose, it is now to be inquired, whether this scheme is in any degree favorable to the doctrine of the salvation of all men.
If God could not prevent sin, consistently with the freedom of man, how can he recover men from sin when they have once fallen under the dominion of it, and not infringe on their freedom? If he could not keep sin out of the world, what evidence is there that he can clear the world of it, and put an end to the rebellion, after it has had such a mighty spread and continued so long? Is it not probable, yea, even certain, that it will continue forever, notwithstanding any thing he can do. Therefore, if it be certain that God does all he can to bring all men to holiness and happiness, what evidence is there that this will ever be effected? If all the means used with men in this world be not sufficient to bring them to repentance, and it is supposed God uses the best means, and takes the best and most likely methods, and does all he can to effect it, what evidence is there that he will ever be able to recover all men from sin, by any means whatsoever: Is it certain, is it probable, that any degree or length of future punishment will be sufficient to effect this, since all other more likely means fail: This cannot be. And if it was certain that future punishment would bring all men to repentance, what security can there be that they will not relapse into sin, and oblige their Maker to continue their punishment and what end can there be of this, so long as God cannot prevent sin, consistent with the freedom of his creatures : There can be no possible security against sin and punishment without end, on this plan, unless God should annihilate all the moral agents he has made, and so put an eternal end to his moral government. Is not this a poor, miserable foundation upon which to build an assurance of the eternal happiness of all men ?
Let the advocates for the salvation of all men give a fair and satisfactory answer to all these questions, and to what has been produced against this doctrine in the foregoing sheets, and remove all these difficulties from their scheme. Or, if they cannot do this, let them give up their dangerous notion, and admit the belief of endless punishment, and that scheme of divine truth, so consistent with the Word of God, and so plainly and abundantly inculcated there, which reflects such glory on the divine character, and gives a rational, satisfactory account of the introduction of sin and misery, under the mosi vise and happy government of Jehoval, and the continuance of them forever for the greatest good of the whole, and against which there can be no reasonable objection.