« PreviousContinue »
well as the influence of filial regard. prudent man," says Solomon, "foreseeth the evil and hideth himself." Why? Evidently, because he is afraid of its pernicious, effects. St. Paul said, "if thou do that which is evil, be afraid." Likewise in the preceding verse, "for rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil." Wilt thou not then be afraid of the power? If the fear of punishment have no force to restrain men from vice, why did Christ and his apostles urge it in the manner in which we find they have? But those very men that are so much opposed to the idea of the fear of punishment having any use to restrain, could not be persuaded to hold their hands in flaming fire, for no other reason than the fear of being burned; nor would they like to take a potion of arsenic, because they fear it would poison them.
In view of the subject of future punishment we will turn to Rom. ii. 3, 6, 16. The intervening verses between these serve to explain the doctrine they contain. In the 3d verse the question is asked concerning him who judges and condemns another, and yet perpetrates the same offences himself, "And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" The plain import of this question is, he will not escape. But should we consider the judg ment to be nothing but what men experience
as they pass the journey of life, should we not take away the whole force of the question? In the 4th verse, the apostle adds another in these words: "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God teacheth thee to repentance ?" Misery and punishment in some measure may begin and be immediately connected with the crime; but if punishment always end with the crime, what could we understand by "the forbearance and long suffering" of God? Although he forbear, yet they are exposed to a due reward unless they repent, as we find in the next verses. "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God: Who will render to every man according to his deeds." Of the manner of this retribution, we are particularly informed. "Eternal life, to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality. Glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good: But to every soul of man that docth evil, the recompence is tribulation and anguish. Indignation and wrath are to them who are contentious, and disregarding the truth, obey unrighteousness." The apostle has also in the 16th verse of the same chapter, after a parenthetical explanation of the subject, stated the time of this general retri
bution to be "in the day, when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to his gospel." Can there be any dispute but the day here noted is the day when we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad? This day has been proved in a former Lecture to be in future life. It is, therefore, plain from this text, that St. Paul was a believer in future retribution; and consequently in future misery and punishment.
The passage in 2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9, appears to me to refer to the same time of future punishment. St. Paul informed the brethren that were troubled, they should rest with them when the Lord Jesus should be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. The time of his revelation, St. Paul then held to be future. If we are to understand the passage figuratively, the Lord Jesus' revelation from heaven with his mighty angels, to be the power of the gospel in demonstration of the spirit by the able ministers of the New Testament, why did he speak of it as being future? In what age was the gospel preached by more powerful ministers ? or Christ by his spirit more powerfully revealed than he had been before and at the time the apostle wrote this epistle? It is evident in none. Then according to this interpretation the text yet remains to be fulfilled; although it be not
understood by those that give it this explanation. But where is the absurdity of considering the text true, according to the literal import of language? Is the idea that the Lord Jesus will personally appear in flaming fire too absurd to be credited ? Admitting the thing to be a fact, and the apostle had meant to inform us, would he have been likely to have expressed it in different language from what he did? That Christ will personally appear is evident from Acts i. 11. He personally ascended before his disciples; and it is said he will come in the same manner as he went up. That he will appear in flaming fire, perhaps will be hard for those to credit that are slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. But when the Lord appeared to Moses, did he not appear in fire that lite rally burned in a bush, yet the bush was not consumed? Did not the angel that appeared to Manoah ascend in fire? Elijah, we are told, when he was translated ascended in chariots of fire with horses of fire, and when the Lord appeared to Saul, there was a brightness that exceeded the sun at noon day. When Christ's face shone like the sun, at the time he was transfigured, shall we discredit his inspired apostle, that when he comes he will descend from heaven in the majestic appearance of flaming fire ?
When he appears the apostle says he will take vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." This everlasting destruction is explained by some to be the immediate salvation of the sinner. Then in the sense of a sinner he is everlastingly destroyed. The flaming fire is the fire of the gospel, because it is from heaven it is the same with which Christ baptiThe vengeance it takes is to destroy sin, and save the sinner. Admitting this comment, the apostle would have been as clear, had he said, Blessed with everlasting destruction, as punished with everlasting destruction. Punishment, though it end in salvation, always carries the idea of affliction and suffering. But according to the ideas we have now been considering, we cannot discern a shade of difference between punishing and blessing, destruction and salvation.
As to the proof of the immediate saving nature of the fire, because it is from heaven, it may be observed; the Bible says the fire that burned Sodom was from heaven, but this did not immediately save the inhabitants, unless on the scheme of no future punishment, their spirits went quickly home to rest; in which case, the fire from heaven was partial against Lot, and in favor of the wicked Sodomites, that vexed his righteous soul from day to day. Respecting the idea that no one can be