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up. This does not look like restoring sinners to happiness after their sufferings. This would be building them up. But God intends to destroy them and not build them up.
God threatens sinners that he will destroy them with double, with everlasting, and perpetual destruction. He intends to consume them in his wrath. He intends to make them a perpetual desolation. They are destined to die the second death. It is the divine purpose that they shall perish forever. He intends to blot out their names forever. They are to be the subjects of endless despair. They are to weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth. Such will be their hopeless and miserable state, that they shall seek death, but death shall flee from them. These expressions all look like irrecoverable ruin. And if the Bible does not teach this doctrine, it is of all books the most difficult to understand. Instead of being that simple, intelligible book, which I have always conceived it to be, I despair of learning one truth from it. I would sell it for the fraction of a cent, and abandon myself to the fortuitous light of unintelligent nature.
II. If the punishments of the wicked are not endless, we have no security in the Scriptures, that the saints will be for ever happy. Each truth rests on the same species of evidence. The same words are used, and the same form of expression in both cases. God has sworn that the one shall live and the other die—the one be destroyed, the other saved—the one redeemed, the other damn. ed! The one is to go away into everlasting punishment, the other into everlasting life. The smoke of the torment of the one is to ascend up for ever and ever, and, co-extensively with it, the other is to cry, alleluiah! Not a text can be found that more strongly expresses the duration of heaven's joys, than the miseries of hell. The Christian's hopes, then, of immortal blessedness are all a dream! He may yet learn the dreadful secret, that after tasting the joys of heaven, he may suddenly sink to the bottomless pit, and some fiend of darkness rise and fill his seat. And let Gabriel know that the prince of darkness, whom he thought to be an outcast forever, may yet walk with him, arm in arm, through the streets of the New Jerusalem, and he, perhaps, be sent to fill the infernal throne! When men embrace such sentiments, they scatter firebrands, arrows, and death; and give them their wish, they fill the middle and the upper world with tears
III. If sinners are to be released from punishment, it must be on
the principle of mercy, or of justice. Let us view both sides of this question.
Are they to be saved, finally, by mercy? Does this idea comport with the sacred Scriptures? According to Matthew, sinners are to remain in the prison of hell till they pay the uttermost farthing. Or, as Luke has it, till they have paid the very last mite. They are also to suffer as much as their sins deserve. They are to receive the due reward of their deeds. They are to drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, that is, without mixture of mercy, into the cup of his indig. nation, and are to be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. Now, if they are to pay the last mite, if there is to be no mixture of mercy in their
cup, and if they are to suffer the due reward of their deeds, how can they be saved by mercy? When one has paid the debt, is there any mercy in giving him his discharge ? Does not justice demand his release ? If the hour ever comes when sinners shall deserve, no further punishment, will not all hell rise in one united band, and press into the court of heaven, to sue for their immediate discharge, on the principle of right? And will a righteous God deny them their suit ?
Do any feel disposed to take the other side, and advocate the sinner's final emancipation on the principle of justice? Then let this matter be fairly viewed. The Scriptures represent salvation as the result of mercy. “By grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” To this point is the whole tenor of Scripture. By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified.
Grace is to be the theme of the heavenly song. The redeemed of the Lord shall for ever praise him who washed them from their sins in his blood. Now if any should finally make their way into heaven, whom mercy has not redeemed, they could never join the song, or if they made the attempt, there would be endless discord.
Besides, brethren, when the sinner shall have suffered all that he deserves, and justice demands his release, it is absurd to speak of his being saved. From what is he saved ? Not from deserved punishment, for no punishment is deserved. If any can have so base an idea of God, as that he would continue to punish sinners after they have ceased to deserve it, then we might conceive of their being saved from the effects of tyranny. And then indeed it would be absurd to speak of the sinner's being saved by the same hand that still wished unjustly to punish. If any then imagine that all will reach heaven at last who have fallen under the wrath of God, let them not speak of them as saved. There can be no salvation but for those who are exposed to ruin, and when they have paid the uttermost farthing, sinners are no longer exposed. And yet who ever thought of any reaching heaven but those who are saved by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Neither on the principle of mercy or of justice, then, is there any redemption from hell. And who can conceive of any third principle as a ground of reprieve from the pangs of the second death ?
IV. Salvation is represented as being through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. But did we ever read in the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit should descend and operate upon the hearts of the damned? And is hell a place where men are likely to come to the knowledge or the love of the truth? Under his tuition, who is a liar and the father of lies, can we hope for such effects? I have no doubt but that those who enter the place of misery hoping one day to make their escape, will there learn one truth, which they are so unwilling to learn here. They will learn, to their everlasting cost, that till then they have always believed a lie. They will learn that he who has the keys of hell will never unlock their prison. In this truth their faith will then be strongeverlasting
V. The Scriptures represent Christ as the medium of salvation to all who reach heaven. There is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved. But Christ will have done his work of salvation before any are redeemed from hell. We are taught that Christ must reign till he hath put his enemies under his feet, and that he shall then deliver up the kingdom to his Father. This passage is worthy of particular remark. Christ delivers up the mediatorial kingdom, immediately after he has sentenced the wicked to everlasting fire. After this period there can be no Christ to redeem them. He has then gathered in his elect, and gone to seat them at the marriage supper, and has left his enemies to contrive a way of salvation for themselves. The finally impenitent are not given to Christ, for those who are given to him shall never perish, neither shall any one be able to pluck them out of his hands. But those who go to the place of despair perish, and therefore are not given to Christ and will not be saved by him. Thus the argument chases the sinner down to hell and leaves him there, with no Savior to redeem hím. How he shall be able, unassisted, to burst its bars, or quench its flames, or quit its caverns, I leave those to guess who dare run the dread. ful risk.
VI. The finally impenitent die with a wrong temper of heart, and must undergo a thorough change of temper and character, or there could be no salvation for them. Indeed it would not be salvation were they taken from the place of torment but left in possession of their evil hearts of unbelief. Salvation consists in being saved from the dominion of sin. Those who are rescued from hell then, must first be made holy. Now it would seem very strange that God should send them to that polluted world to acquire purity. Hell, it seems, is the school where men are qualified for heaven, and he their instructor who was too vile to live in heaven!
Can we believe that the flames of the pit will have any tendency to purify? Afflictions in the present world make wicked men no better. “Why should they be stricken any more, they will revolt more and more ?" The merest wretches that ever appeared in the shape of men, have been those who had been subjected to almost perpetual affliction. And it would seem as though every stroke made them more stubborn. And why should the rod of divine wrath have a different effect in hell? That men will for ever grow worse in that world I can believe, but to believe that they shall grow better, requires credulity which I do not possess.
And the decree of Heaven with regard to them is, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse. to perish in their iniquities, and there is neither promise nor intimation that they shall ever be cleansed. How then can they ever be qualified for that world where nothing impure shall ever enter?
VII. We read that wicked men are to have their portion at last with devils. “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” If then they are ever redeemed, their associates in misery will doubtless be redeemed with them. But we read that Christ did not take upon him the nature of angels nor die for them. Devils have no share in his blood, nor any hope of emancipation through his merits. This question was long since settled. They must remain in their chains, and there is full
reason to apprehend that men will for ever have their part with them in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.
I feel it my duty to answer a few of the more specious objections to this doctrine. The more common objection is that drawn from the mercy of God. The argument is, that God is too benevolent too inflict so sore a punishment on his creatures. It seems they are afraid to admit the idea of endless punishment lest the sentiment should tarnish the divine glory. If they are sincere in using this argument they will manifest their sincerity by holiness of life. They will make it their constant effort to obey, and have others obey, the divine law. And if we do not see this, we shall doubt whether they oppose the doctrine we advocate, from respect to the divine character. But be their motive what it may the argument is flimsy. It is founded on this hypothesis, that it is more important that God should appear merciful than that he appear holy, just, and true. God is good, but he will forever hate those who are filthy and polluted. God is good, but he is so just that he will render to every one according to his works. God is good, but he is so true to his word that every threatening he has uttered he will execute. If then any are saved, in their salvation mercy and truth must meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other.
We are incompetent to say, what divine goodness operating in unison with the other attributes of Deity may do, or what it may refuse to do.
In this world some suffer all their life. From the cradle to the grave they hardly draw a breath in comfort. And these unhappy sufferers are not always conspicuous for wickedness. We see infants suffer from the day of their birth till they find an early grave. Now if all this is consistent with the goodness of God, it may comport with the same goodness, to leave those, who have spent all their lives in sin, and gone down to hell in unbelief, to suffer for their sins for ever.
Besides, brethren, mercy must have some channel, through which it may flow out. While God pardons rebels he must still maintain the dignity of his character, and must support the honor of his law and government. And the Lord Jesus Christ is the only medium of mercy from God to sinners. Him the wretched sinner has rejected till he gives up the mediatorial kingdom. Hence there is no channel through which mercy may be communicated to the inhabitants of the pit. God will remain merciful and graVOL. II.