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I trust, Sir, that this, through your invaluable publication, shall fall under the eyes of many who have heretofore been engaged in the work we condemn; and that in future, instead of Sabbath collections, we may see the dues, like the manna of old, gathered in through the week, that all the people may rest on the Sabbath day; if not, it may be with the Presbyterian minister as with the Israelitish people, who, refusing to collect the bread of heaven on the sixth day, in vain roamed the fields on the seventh, seeking the "little round thing;" but could find none. I am, Sir, yours, &c.,
WRITTEN ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEPARTURE OF THE LATE
THOU art gone-ever gone-and thy friends must deplore thee,
Tho' weeping in hope, yet we weep for thy doom.
We saw thee embarking to cross the wide main,
Nor thought that Jamaica would find thee a grave.
Thou hast journied still on to the isles of the blest,
'Tis painful to think thou returnest no more.
Remember thee long shall the friends who have known thee-
The Church shall deplore thee, so soon called away
How sudden has past like a meteor ray,
A star that had risen so steadily bright!
The shadows are flying and dawning the day,
Thou sawest that bright day of glory afar,
And hailed it, and hastened to welcome it on-
Thou hast finished thy course-the prize is attained-
Then dry up, fond parents, dry up thy sad tears
Weep no more, lonely widow, for him who is gone!
Will unite you, where parting no more shall be known.
And while Prophets-Apostles-all stay but an hour,
BIBLE INSTRUCTION. No. XIX.
"These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." MATT. xxv. 46.
On the subject of eternity we know nothing, save what is communicated to us in the pages of revelation. In any observations, therefore, which we shall make upon it, we shall confine ourselves strictly and exclusively to this source of information.
There are in the world, when judged by God, only two classes of persons, the righteous and the wicked. For both, there is a provision in the eternal world. But, oh! how different. "Everlasting punishment, and eternal life," are the phrases employed to denote their various conditions. In explaining the subject, therefore, it will be necessary to present it in this two-fold aspect and it will sufficiently expound it, simply to open the meaning of the two phrases that have been quoted.
I. Everlasting punishment. On this topic, many curious questions are wont to be discussed, into none of which we shall at present enter. The place, and the precise nature of future punishment have been canvassed to exhaustion; but such discussions we cannot otherwise regard than as the most foolish trifling with a serious subject. We shall endeavour simply to collect and set forth the representations which the Scriptures give of it. These are numerous and various, and well calculated not only to instruct, but to alarm us. Sometimes future punishment is denominated death. "He who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death."
James v. 20. Death is, in man's estimation, the greatest evil. He is known as the king of terrors, and is expressive of pain, horror, and agony. Future punishment, then, is a continued death,-pain, horror, and agony, endured without interruption or end, the soul ever dying, but never permitted to know the relief of annihilation. What a relief do we count death, when it has completed its work on a long-afflicted sufferer; but in eternity the soul knows no such relief, but must continue to endure the ceaseless agony of death. Again, we find that future punishment is designated by darkness. "Cast him into outer darkness." Mat. xxii. 13. The thought of darkness is full of horror to the mind. What a judgment it would be upon the world, were it involved in universal midnight! suppose the sun to be withdrawn from the hemisphere, and our existence to be prolonged for ever in a world where no sun should ever shine, and what an idea does it convey to us of misery. At other times, the punishment of eternity is described by the action of fire. “Depart from me into everlasting fire." Mat. xxv. 41. Of all elements, fire is the most destructive; neither is there any that inflicts the same degree of pain. The prophet well asks, “who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?" We make no inquiry whether there be a material fire. The pain will be the same, whether or not, and we desire to have our minds chastened by the certainty and reality of the suffering, rather than amused or perplexed about the manner of it. It is common, also, to describe the punishment of eternity as an endurance of the wrath of God. "To them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish." Rom. ii. 8. We know how painful it is to be conscious of bearing the displeasure of our fellow-men,—this is much aggravated if we are sensible that we have deservedly incurred their displeasure, and it is completed in the utmost misery, when we know that those to whom we are displeasing are the wise and good. What, then, must it be to endure the wrath of God, in which all these elements conspire to make the soul miserable? Finally, future punishment is described as "a worm that dieth not." Mark ix. 44. This is a figure frequently employed by our Lord; and used by him with fearful emphasis too, as when we find him uttering the same solemn words three times in almost the same breath, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,-where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,-where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
Such are some of the Scriptural representations of future misery; and, without any indulgence to fancy, how clearly may we infer, that the following are among the features by which it shall be characterized :
Sinful desires will be wholly unrestrained. This will be one deep source of wretchedness. Even on earth we know the pain and misery of sinful propensities, though restrained. What must these be, when all restraint is gone? On earth, men are wretched in proportion to their sin, and the same law will hold good in eternity.
These sinful desires will be altogether unsatisfied. The pain endured now from the craving of a strong sinful propensity, which we cannot gratify, is great. Consider the case of those who are the subjects of mortified pride, of hatred with which they cannot visit its object, or of envy which has no power to injure. And only think, when these passions are carried to the highest pitch in the soul, but must still remain without the smallest gratification, how great must be the unhappiness of their subjects.
Sin will then be seen and felt in its real character. Men may sometimes enjoy comparative peace, though living in sin; but when they do, it is purely because they do not know their condition, nor are aware of their danger. Witness the agony of the convinced sinner, whose mind has been opened to a sight of his true character, while yet he has not obtained any saving knowledge of the Redeemer. It is a bitterness, indeed, which they only who have experienced can understand. Now, suppose that this discovery is never made until eternity has been entered. Then it is vain,-no hope is held out to the sinner, but without cessation he must endure the misery of remorse and despair. Conscience is awakened, its upbraidings are loud and constant, and it is a fire within the soul, from whose painful operation there is no escape.
The wicked will be the means of extreme suffering to one another. What wretchedness do the members of an ungodly family inflict upon one another. Just as each is wicked he causes the others to be unhappy. In all the relations and connexions of the present life this is the uniform law. Then imagine all wicked passions carried to the utmost height, exercised in seeking the misery of all within their reach, while every pain that is inflicted is the occasion of fresh and increased virulence; and what must that state of suffering be in which sin is complete.
The future punishment of the wicked will be eternal. In the passage prefixed to these remarks it is termed everlasting, and it is our duty to endeavour correctly to ascertain what we are to understand by the expression. With this view, we shall follow out an analysis of the term, as it is used in the Scriptures. We find it employed to signify the longest period of which the subject treated is capable. Thus we read of "a servant for ever, an ordinance for ever, the everlasting hills." Here the word is used in a limited acceptation, but it expresses the longest duration of which the subjects handled are sus
ceptible, and means the entire life of the servant, the endurance of the dispensation, and the time of this earth's continuance. In other passages the expression is still stronger, and the phrase "for ever and ever," is applied to future misery. "The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever." Rev. xiv. 11. What, now, is the import of this phrase? We find it in the New Testament eighteen times, and in fifteen of these it is applied to the perfections, government, and glory of God. The obvious inference is, that punishment shall endure even as these. We observe, also, that the same word which is used to denote the continued happiness of the righteous, is employed to signify the enduring punishment of the wicked. Whatever, therefore, shall be the continuance of the one, shall be also that of the other. And to all this it may be added, that the current language of the New Testament is such as implies no cessation," the fire that is never quenched,-the worm that dieth not, he that believeth not shall not see life,―there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth." Do not such passages and expressions clearly proceed on the assumption, that the future punishment of the wicked shall be eternal ? They take it for granted, nor can they otherwise be fairly expounded.
Against these views, however, some objections have been urged, which it may be proper to notice. It is asked, how can the sin of finite beings be justly visited with an infinite punishment? Of infinitudes we own we know nothing, and, therefore, would say little. Yet if there be any force in the objection, it is a sufficient answer, that sin is committed against an infinite being, and, therefore, deserves infinite punishment. However, in the use of all such language, we are but satisfying ourselves with a sound, while we can have no just idea of the sentiment that is expressed. Nor is it at all necessary to have recourse to any such language. It is enough for us to know that sin will be punished as long as exists. But it will exist for ever, and, consequently, will be punished for ever. Again, it is urged that eternal punishment is contrary to the goodness of God. But here, again, there is a speculation upon the divine character which we are not warranted, because not competent, to make. The very same objection might be urged against the existence of sin or misery, at all. It is as easy to reconcile the one with the goodness of God as the other. Still it is objected, that the very design of punishment is only to purify and restore. But that is not found to be the fact upon the earth. Neither is it so in the place of torment; for we know that Satan and his angels have been the subjects of punishment for some thousand years, and that yet their enmity to God remains as virulent as before. We are informed, they are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness till the judgment of the great day." It is not in the