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The eternal torments of the damned proved.
Mat. 25, xlvi. And these shall go away into everlafliug pun ifbment.
THE eternity of the torments of hell, however plainly taught in the oracles of God, is, notwithstanding, denied by fome and doubted of by many. There appears to be a growing disbelief of this article of our faith in thefe days of licentious principles and degenerate manners. It is a doctrine of great utility and high importance, and therefore to be contended for with earnestness, and not to be yielded to the enemies of truth as a matter of indifference or a thing of no moment. "Contend "earneftly for the faith once delivered to the faints," is an a poftolic injunction. That this is an article to be held with firmness and stedfafinefs appears from its being fo frequently inculcated in the word of God, from the ufe which is there made of it, to alarm finners to attend to the concerns of their fouls, and from its being the ftrongeft natural motive to engage men to feek their falvation and to restrain them from open courfes of vice. The doctrine of everlasting punishment
carries the bufinefs of natural motives to the highest pofible de gree of force.
It is true the effect produced by it upon mankind is far, very far from being anfwerable to the high nature of the argument. But, if this be the cafe under this mighty argument, what would be the confequence, if it were weaker? If the Itrongeft poffible motive that can be produced to excite men to feek their falvation proves ineffectual, furely were the mo tive weaker, the effect would be lefs in proportion. If a mo tive inconceivably strong and powerful in its own nature, which is now the cafe, has fo little influence, it is plain an inferior motive, which would be the ftate of matters if the punishment of the wicked were only for a limited time, would have a very inconfiderable effect, if any at all. Were the fentiment to become common, it would remove in a great part the restraint npon men's confciences, and they would be more abandoned to the world and their lufts than they now are. Were this opinion given up, which never can be relinquifhed by the plain be. lievers of the bible, the ftrongelt confiderations whereby the fouls of men can be touched, must be surrendered also. I appeal to fact; only look into the places and focieties, which hold the univerfal principle, is there not, I do not fay of religion, but a manifest failure of common virtue and common morals ¿ The cenfure I grant is heavy, but it reits with them to exhi bit the contrary.
All know and feel that fear is a powerful principle in the human constitution, and those who renounce the eternity of hell's torments, reject the highest motive by which that principle can be moved or operated upon. Thefe are fome of the reafons which fhow the generally received doctrine to be important, and that it is neceffary at proper times to advance the evidences whereon it depends. We shall endeavour to lay before you a
few of the arguments from reafon and revelation whereby it is fupported.
As this difcourfe is intended to be of a practical nature, and aims at interesting the heart of every hearer, as well as adminiftering light to the understanding and conviction to the judg ment, I fhall not go into the obftruse and more strict method of reasoning, which might be expedient upon a proper occafion, but confine myself to fuch easy and obvious obfervations as may render the doctrine plain to the unprejudiced and feeblest understanding. I know it is a fruitless attempt to combat a weak mind under Arong prepoffefions.
First, that the pnnifhment of fouls in hell will be everlasting or eternal is evident from this, that from the nature of fin and their own nature, they deserve everlasting punishment. If they merit such a punishment, juftice requires it should be inflicted. If finners ought to be punithed according to their defert, the rules of law and juftice oblige it to be done. We are affured from the word of God, that he will do in all cafes that which is juft and perfectly right, therefore if finally impenitent finners deferve eternal punishment, it will be inflicted upon them. All that remains to render this argument unanswerable is to show that finners do justly deferve an eternal punishment. This ap pears from the nature of fin continuing to be anrepented of, that it is an exceedingly ill deferving thing. Every fin deferves the wrath and curfe of God, or elfe it deferves no punishment at all, and it wonld be wrong to inflict any punishment upon a finner either in this world or in the next. To suppose or fuggeft that fin deferves no punishment at all, is to furmise that fin is no fault, nor blame worthy. But this would be an For exprefs contradiction, and faying, that fin is not fin. the very notion, and nature of fin is, that it is an evil, faulty thing, and worthy of blame. To fay it is blame worthy is the fame as to fays it is worthy of punishment. If it deferves no punishment, it is not an evil. The very nature of a morally
evil action is that it merits-punishment. If it be allowed there is any punishment inflicted on men either here or hereafter, it is either juft or unjuft; the latter would be to impute unrigh teoufnefs to God, therefore the former is established.
The reafon why fin deferves any punishment is because of its evil or faultinefs, hence it deferves punishment in that degree in which it is evil or faulty. To fay, that the reafon of its defert of punishment is the evil and faultiness of it, and yet to deny it deferves it in that degree in which it is evil or faulty, would be a palpable contradiction. As the faultiness of fin is the reason of its defert of punishment, hence it must merit it exactly according to the degree of its fault inefs. Therefore an act which has one degree of blameablenefs in it, must have one degree of punishment; that which has two degrees muft for the fame reafon merit two degrees of punishment,. and thus it will proceed to infinity, and if there be any evil which contains an infinite degree of faultinefs, then such evil. deferves a proportionable punishment or none at all. Becaufe if a crime of a high degree of faultiness do not deserve a high. degree of punishment, then furely a crime with only one or a fmall degree of faultinefs can deserve no punishment at all, or next to none. Which amounts to the fame as to fay it is no crime, or the faultinefs of an action is not the reason of its defert of punishment. The confequence of this is, there would be no fuch thing as fin, law, justice, or evil in the universe. And thus we are got to the end of all government and religion, virtue: and vice, right and wrong at once.
Moreover the degree of the evil of an action will always be in proportion to the worthiness and excellency of the object against which it is committed; but as God is an object of infinite excellency and worthiness, hence every fm as committed against him is an exceeding great evil, therefore in ftrict juftice. deferves the higheft poflible punishment. Sin confidered exclu
fively as committed against mankind, or a mere tranfgreflion of the laws of human fociety, is always finite in its nature, and can never arise higher however henious the crime may be, and therefore it never does, nor can receive more than a finite punifhment. The punishment of man for offences committed against man are always of this nature. But as it is against God and the degree of its faultinefs is according to the infinite dig. nity of the divine nature, hence the punishment must be the greateft poffible, it must be in the highest degree and of the most unlimited duration.
The fin or faultinefs of an action afes from and confists in the violation of fome obligation the perfon is under. If a perfon be under no obligation he can commit no fault; for where there is no law there is no tranfgreffion. Now if fin confifts in and arifes from the violation of an obligation, and if the obligation violated be infinite, then the act itself contains in its very nature an inconceivable degree of evil or faultiness ; but God is a being to whom all rational creatures are under the highest poffible obligation, therefore every fin against him is an evil beyond created conception, and hence it mu receive the greatest measure of punishment, and the juftice of God requires that the same should be inflicted. Therefore the torments of hell will furely be eternal. For God will deal with every one ftrictly according to his works; and finite creatures can in no other way be the subjects of the greatest possible punishment, or a punishment adequate to their demerit, but by fuffering to the utmoft extent of their capacities throughout the whole of their interminable exiftence.
Secondly, it is evident the future fufferings of the wicked will be everlasting or eternal from the nature of that state into which they pafs at death. It is a fate of the most perfect mifery. It is defigned of God for this very purpose, therefore all who were fentenced to that place must neceflarily be miferable. Many have gone from our world to these