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best means which the wisdom of the Deity had devised to make him pure and happy, there was every reason to believe that he must leave this world utterly unprepared for the next, and suffer the penalty of unrepentant guilt, which will be the more dreadful, in that his eyes will be opened to all the enormity of his crime. This, indeed, will form a dreadful aggravation of the misery of the wicked in the state of punishment. At present, the mind has a wonderful power of changing at will the appearances of objects, so that it can bring itself to view even the most horrible crimes not only without disgust, but with pleasure: but in the state of discipline in which the Parent of mankind will hereafter place his offending offspring, this deceptive power will not be permitted to be exercised. The veil will be torn from every eye, and all objects will appear in their real colours. Then, it will not be Nero reflecting upon his crimes with the blunted feelings of the man who could cause hundreds of innocent beings to be wrapt in shirts of pitch, and, setting them on fire, mingle in the crowd of flaming victims, that he might
to demoniacal agency, resisted the strongest possible evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and were therefore incapable of being converted to the belief of it.” Improved Version, in loc. See also Dr. Samuel Clarke's Paraphrase of this passage, and Macknight, in loc.
have a nearer view of their anguish ; but it will be Nero contemplating his wanton cruelty with the sensibility of Howard; with the just valuation of goodness of the apostle Paul. Is it possible to believe, that this altered view and feeling will produce no beneficial effect; will exeite no abhorrence of sin, no desire to burst from its thraldom and be free, or that, exciting such a dislike and wish, they will be for ever unavailing?
The degree and the duration of punishment necessary to produce the salutary change, must be different in different persons. The exact proportion it is the part of Infinite Wisdom to determine. No more than is requisite will be inflicted : as much as is necessary must be sustained. Some must be beaten with few, and others with many stripes; and we learn from the passage we have been considering, that there is in the sin against the Holy Ghost a malignity which will render its eradication more difficult than that of any other crime. In the language which is used concerning it, there is much that is awful and affecting, but nothing that is impossible or irrational, and it is not for us, by giving a false interpretation of it, to render it both.
OF THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF ENDLESS MISERY, DE
DUCED FROM THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT GULPH.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man has often been adduced in proof of the endless misery of the wicked. It is necessary, therefore, to notice it, though no intelligent person can lay much stress upon it.
Abraham is représented as saying to the rich man, Luke xvi. 26, “ Between us and you there is a great gulph fixed, so that they which would pass from thence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.”
All which this passage proves is, that the righteous and the wicked will be placed in different states, and that the one cannot pass to that of the other. Respecting the duration of these states it determines nothing.
Indeed, the circumstances mentioned in the parable are favorable to the opinion, that future punishment will be corrective. The rich man is représented as enjoying many privileges which he abused. He had great wealth, but, like too many who are entrusted with this means of diffusing happiness, he possessed an unfeeling heart. There is no scriptural authority for representing him as utterly profligate and abandoned, and to give such an exhibition of his character is to pervert the design of this most instructive lesson, which is to admonish us, not that a monster of wickedness shall be punished in the other world, but that the man who, though not chargeable with doing much ill, does little or no good, and lives, though not perhaps an intemperate, a sensual life ; who, careless about the situation of others, exists only for the indulgence of his own appetites and his own vanity, shall not escape punishment.* The great vice of his character was the want of diffusive benevolence. He felt no compassion for the misery of others. Even though he saw a fellow-creature ready to perish with disease and hunger, it melted not his soul to charity. He dies, and is placed under the painful discipline, which is necessary to change his selfish disposition. In hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments. He supplicates for mercy; he prays that Lazarus may be sent to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his parched tongue; his request is refused, and finding that he can obtain no mitigation of his own suffering, what does he next solicit? “I pray that thou wouldest ,send him to my
* See Campbell's note on this passage, in which will be found some excellent practical observations on this beautiful and impressive parable,
father's house ; for I have five brethren ; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
The very disposition, then, for which he is punished, is already beginning to be rectified ; the discipline under which he is placed is taking effect; he has ceased to care only for himself; a spark of benevolence is kindled in his heart. Instead of imbibing what is generally represented as the spirit of the devil and his angels, from having associated with them; instead of soliciting permission to go and beguile his brethren to this place of torment, he is animated by'a disposition of the purest benevolence ; he, who a little while ago was so insensible to the suffering of others, that the extremes of disease and hunger could not excite in his bosom a single sensation of pity.
This parable, therefore, which does not allude to the duration of punishment, but which gives a just exhibition of the tendency of the chastisement of a wise and benevolent Being, countenances the doctrine, that the wicked will be ultimately restored to virtue and to happiness.