« PreviousContinue »
will be attended with ecstatic delight. All through which they have passed in this world, the scene of sorrow, pain and sin, will not be forgotten; but their reflection upon it, while it is all in the clearest view, will be the occasion of their greatest enjoyment and happiness. The wicked, in a state of suffering and punishment, will not be out of their sight, but will be seen by all the inhabitants of heaven. “ They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.” (Rev. xiv. 10, 11.) But this will give them no pain, or one uneasy thought or sensation; but it will be the occasion of their joy and praise.
Not that the misery of any, in itself considered, and for its own sake, will give them pleasure; but they will have such a constant sense of the justice, propriety, and necessity of their punishment, to answer the best end, for the glory of God and the general good, that they will, in the full view of this, sing and say, “ Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shall be, because thou hast judged thus; for they are worthy. Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.” (Rev. xvi. 5–7.) And this will be the occasion of exciting and maintaining, in a higher degree than otherwise could be, a sense of the happiness of the redeemed, and of the sovereign, distinguishing goodness of God in their salvation, and of their indebtedness to sovereign, divine grace, which will raise their gratitude to the highest key, and will keep in constant view the excellence, worthiness, power, and grace of the Redeemer. This is the representation the Scripture gives. The inhabitants of heaven rejoice and praise God in full view of the punishment of the wicked." After these things, I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Hallelujah: and her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, and the four beasts, fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Hallelujah.” (Rev. xix. 1-4.)
And reason teaches not only why the punishment of the wicked will be the occasion of the greater joy and happiness of the redeemed, agreeable to this representation of Scripture, but that it must be so, in order to the perfect happiness of the inhabitants of heaven. For if this were not on the whole, all things considered, agreeable to them, it must be matter of uneasiness, and the occasion of constant grief and pain, which VOL. II.
would render heaven, in a great measure, an unhappy place. It is impossible that the wicked should be punished unless God were pleased with it; therefore, so far as the inhabitants of heaven will be like God, and be pleased with that which is pleasing to him, this punishment will be the occasion of joy and happiness to them.
And while they are in the full enjoyment of all this happi. ness in heaven, they will have the greatest assurance that it shall have no end, but continue forever. Without this, their happiness would not be complete at any time; for whatever happy circumstances they were in at present, and however happy they might be, the thought that they were liable to lose it, and having no assurance that it should never cease, would be a great alloy to their present enjoyment, and be inconsistent with their complete happiness. Therefore, the certainty that they shall exist without end in this state, is a necessary ingredient in their felicity, in order to their having fulness of joy at present as well as pleasures forevermore.
From the nature of the human mind, and the circumstances in which the redeemed will be in heaven, it is reasonable to suppose that they will increase and make continual progress in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, without end; and they will make advances in these with greater celerity the longer they exist. The greatest and chief objects of knowledge are infinite; this, therefore, is a foundation for progress in knowl. edge without end, and however swift the advances be, the subjects to which they attend can never be exhausted. However much they may know, at any supposed time, they will be so far from knowing all that may be known, that the advances in knowledge which they have then made will be little, compared with what may take place, and will put them under advantages to make yet swifter advances in knowledge for time to come. The mind is capable of enlarging its ideas and knowledge by attention and exercise, when objects present and invite to new discoveries, and so far as we can conceive, must enlarge and grow in strength and capacity in these circumstances; and every degree of increase of knowledge will prepare the mind to make yet greater and more swist advances in knowledge, to which no bounds can be set so as to put a stop to the progress. And in proportion to the increase of their knowledge will their love and holiness increase, and consequently their enjoyment and happiness.
The Deity, who is the infinite fountain and source of existence, is almighty, infinitely wise and good, can open new scenes successively, by which the blessed shall know more and more of him, and grow in degrees of holiness and happiness; and however fast they increase in progress and advances in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, they will forever be infinitely below the Deity, and fall infinitely short of infinite existence, holiness, and felicity. This view may serve, in some measure, to give us an idea of the greatness of the felicity of the redeemed and of the advancing grandeur and glory of the eternal kingdom of Christ, which far exceeds the utmost stretch of our thoughts and imagination.
And this is agreeable to the Scripture, if it be not expressly or implicitly asserted there. The following words of the Redeemer may be considered as expressing, or at least implying, this: “I am come, that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John X. 10.) These words have been understood to express the greater happiness which the redeemed shall have by Christ, than that which they could have had by the first Adam, had he not sinned. They may be understood to express more, even the abounding and endless increase of eternal life. They shall have it multiplied and abounding with increase forever. It is said of the redeemed in heaven,“ The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.” (Rev. vii. 17.) Which may import not only the fulness of happiness and the care of Christ to supply them constantly, but the progress that shall be made in new discoveries of divine truth and grace, and in enjoyinent and happiness. They shall be led from one fountain of living water to another, and new ones shall be constantly opening for their greater refreshment and pleasure.
In heaven they will contemplate and search out the works of God, and marvellous things without number, which to us, in this world, are unsearchable. (Job iv. 9.) These great and marvellous works of God, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, will be then explored and sought out with the greatest attention and pleasure. (Ps. cxi. 2. Isa. xxviii. 29.) They will search into, and see the divine plan, comprehending all things and all events that have come to
pass, formed by infinite wisdom and goodness, and executed by the all-pervading energy of omnipotence; they will behold it with pleasing admiration and wonder, as it has been opened in divine providence, and be more and more pleased with the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God. They will learn his manifold wisdom, in planning and conducting all things to the most happy issue, and understand, with pleasing wonder and adoration, more of his judgments and ways, which in this state are unsearchable, and past finding out. They will see more and more of their own entire, absolute, and universal dependence on God for all things, and of all creatures and things; that they are the clay, and he is the sovereign potter, and former of all things; and this will appear to them to be just as they would have it, and the greater sense they have of this, the more pleasure and happiness will they have, while they rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and will reign forever. (Rev. xix. 6.) For God will then be all in all; “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. xi. 36. 1 Cor. xv. 28.)
Secondly. The wicked will go from the judgment unto everlasting punishment. The Scripture sets this punishment in an awful and terrifying light, not only as it will be endless, but amazingly great and dreadful in degree. It is represented by their being cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where they have no rest, but shall be tormented night and day, without any cessation, forever and ever; — where they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. (Rev. xiv. 10, 11; xx. 10, 15.) If these are to be taken as in some measure metaphorical expressions, yet we must not think that they are designed to represent to our view and imagination the sufferings of the wicked as greater and more dreadful than they really will be; for this is not consistent with the dignity and truth of God, to attempt to fright men, by threatening them with a greater evil than he ever will inflict on any, or by representing them as suffering more than the wicked will suffer. Besides, the wicked will be “ vessels fitted to destruction;" which, implies that their whole capacity shall be devoted to suffering; but they are capable of suffering as great evil as they can conceive or imagine. All the use which God will have for them is to suffer; this is all the end they can answer; therefore, all their faculties, and their whole capacity, will be employed or used for this end, otherwise they would be useless and answer no end.
As the wicked are to suffer in the body, they will be capable of suffering by means of the body, or of suffering bodily pain, as well as that which is purely mental. The body can, by Omnipotence, be made capable of suffering the greatest imaginable pain, without producing a dissolution, or abating the least degree of life and sensibility. The bodies of the wicked will be raised, and united to their souls, that they may be punished, and suffer misery in body and mind, in union. And God can render a future separation impossible, and so form the body as that it shall continue in full life, and with quick sense, in union with the soul, in the hottest fire that can be imagined, or exist through endless ages. And since the Scripture speaks of them as tormented in a lake of fire and brimstone, perhaps we have no reason to conclude there will be nothing of this kind, or that the suffering of this kind will not be so great as to equal this representation. The Scripture says, “ What if God, willing (or determining) to show his wrath, and make his power known, endureth with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?” (Rom. ix. 22.) And that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Thess. i. 9.) One
way in which God will show his power in the punishment of the wicked, will be in strengthening and upholding their bodies and souls, in suffering torments, which otherwise would be intolerable, while, at the same time, his power is gloriously manifested in the manner in which the punishment is to be inflicted.
The apostle Peter, speaking of the day of judgment and the destruction of the wicked, says, “ The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” By the heavens are generally meant, in Scripture, the sun, moon, and stars. These, with the earth, are reserved against the day of judgment, and for the destruction of ungodly men, by being all set on fire with this earth. “ When the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and the earth, also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.” (2 Pet. iii. 7, 10.) If the heavens, the sun, the moon, and fixed stars, with all the planets that accompany them, together with this earth, should be thrown together with a tremendous crash and noise, so as to make one common mass of liquid fire, and the wicked be cast into it at the day of judgment, to remain there forever in this unquenchable fire, it would be agreeable to this description of it by Peter, and other passages of Scripture. And perhaps this is the most natural construction of the words now cited." This would be a great and amazing display of omnipotence, and represents the punishment of the wicked, by their bodies, as very dreadful; but not greater than they will deserve, or than God can inflict, and make them strong to bear.
But be this as it may, and in whatever way or degree the wicked will suffer pain by the body, it is not to be doubted that their mental pain and sufferings will be the chief part of their punishment. Indeed, such a situation and torture of