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to determine, without hesitation, many important inquiries about a future state; and that mankind would be left in great and most undesirable uncertainty and darkness respecting all things that relate to the invisible world, without some other assistance; and that it is, therefore, greatly desirable, and of infinite importance, that God, who is able, should assist man by a particular revelation of his will and design with regard to a future state. And this might not only be a ground of hope that God may thus favor his creature, man, - to whom he grants so many favors in his providence, and shows him. self propitious, — but affords good reason to conclude he has actually given such a revelation, and may serve to excite our gratitude to God, who find ourselves in actual possession of a revelation which bears every mark, and is attended with all the evidence, of its divine original that can be desired, or even conceived; and ought to lead us to feel the great obligations we are under to attend to it with a serious and honest mind, ready to receive the dictates of Heaven on this important point, whatever we may find to be revealed.
All who admit the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be from God, agree that it is there revealed that they who shall be redeemed from sin, and be made happy by Christ the Savior, shall have an unceasing existence, in perfect happiness, in his everlasting kingdom; but they have differed much about the future existence and punishment of those who do not embrace the gospel in this life, but live and die in their sins. Most who have lived in the Christian world have professed to believe that it is as clearly revealed that the latter shall exist forever in endless punishment as that the former shall be happy without end; but a number have denied this. Some have expressed a confidence that all the wicked shall cease to exist, and be annihilated, either immediately upon the death of the body, or after they have continued in misery and been punished during a proper length of time. Others are confident it can be proved from Scripture that all the human race will be finally and eternally happy. Some of these allow that they who die in their sins will be punished for a season, even after the day of judgment, as an effectual discipline to bring them to repentance; but others confidently assert that all will be happy at the day of judgment, and some of these hold that all do enter into perfect blessedness when they leave this world.
The design of the following inquiry is to assist all who are desirous to know the truth, in examining this point in the light of the sacred oracles, and to help them to see the reason ableness of what is there revealed concerning it, and to answer the most material objections that have been made against it. There seems to be a special call for this now, as the denial of endless punishment has been more open and common of late, and the doctrine of universal salvation, though in different forms, is zealously espoused by many.
We have no reason to think the difference of sentiment on so important and interesting a point, among those who profess to form their different opinions from divine revelation, is owing to any defect in the Bible, or because the truth respecting it is not revealed with sufficient plainness. This diversity and opposition of sentiment, therefore, must be wholly owing to the faulty prejudices and evil biases in the minds of men, which indispose them to believe the truth, and lead them to misunderstand and pervert the Holy Scriptures, even where that which is revealed is very plain and decisive.
Whoever attends to the different and opposite sentiments on almost every point in religion which have been and are embraced, even by those who have the Bible in their hands and appeal to that for the support of what they believe, will have sufficient reason to determine that no standing revelation can be given from heaven, however perfect, plain, and decisive, that cannot be misunderstood and perverted by men of corrupt and perverse minds. If divine revelation be so formed that they cannot fail of seeing every important truth contained in it who give suitable attention to it, and have a meek, humble, honest mind, it is suited to answer all the desirable ends of a revelation, however it may be abused and perverted by those who do not love the truth, in support of the most gross and hurtful errors.
We, therefore, have all desirable encouragement to search the Scriptures, that we may learn what will be the certain consequence of living and dying in sin — what will be the punishment of the wicked in a future state, as it is certainly there plainly revealed; and however men have differed, - and many have run into great and dangerous errors on this point,
we may have the comfortable assurance that we shall know what is the truth respecting this important article, if with meekness and impartiality we be ready to receive and love what God has revealed. But as many have failed of this, and have come to the Bible full of prejudices against the truth there revealed, and disposed to believe nothing contained in divine revelation which is not agreeable to their corrupted minds, – and so have not believed the truth, and have been justly given up to strong delusion, to believe a lie, and we are liable to the same sin and dreadful consequence, - let us therefore take heed to ourselves, and humbly, with earnestness and constancy, look to the Father of lights, that ne may give us an honest heart, and so open our minds to understand the Scriptures that we may find the truth, after which we are now inquiring, and have our hearts established in it, and be directed to improve it to his glory, our own eternal good, and the benefit of our neighbor.
The Holy Scriptures teach that the Wicked will be punished
in the future State.
Much is said in the Scripture concerning the evil and punishment that will come on the wicked in a future state. This observation will be sufficiently illustrated by the following passages, though they do not contain all that is said on this subject in the inspired writings.
The evils which God brings on men in this world for their sins, and his often destroying them in a terrible manner, as a testimony of his displeasure with them, many instances of which we find recorded in sacred writ, do forebode the future punishment of the wicked, and may well be considered as a standing evidence and admonition of this.
The destruction of the old world by the flood, when only one family was saved, the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the deliverance of Lot, are considered by Christ and his apostles as emblems or types of the destruction or punishment of the wicked in the future state, and the salvation of God's people.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, etc., until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not till the flood came and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. xxvi
. 37, 38.) “For if God spared not the old world, but saved Noah, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly, and turning the cities of
Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly, and delivered just Lot; the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Pet. ii. 5, etc.) Here the apostle makes these destructions of the wicked an argument that the ungodly in general will be punished in the future state, and after the day of judgment; and, therefore, teaches us to consider them in this light, and by them to learn the distinction God will make between the godly and unjust at the last day. In the same light St. Jude considers the destruction of Sodom. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” In this view, the Bible is full of admonitions of the certain punishment of all that live ungodly, when the righteous shall be completely delivered and enter into everlasting life. A contrary doom is pointed out for the wicked.
When God reveals a Savior by Moses, and promiseth he shall come into the world in the character of a prophet, he adds the following words: “ And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deut. xviii. 19.) That is, he shall answer to me for it, and I will deal with him, and punish bim accordingly. Therefore, when St. Peter quotes this passage, he expresses the true sense in the following words: “He shall be destroyed from among his people.” This is an early declaration that rejection of Christ in this world would prove fatal to men; and that he would be so far Irom saving all men, that they who shall disregard him in this life will certainly be punished with a peculiarly aggravated destruction.
We find an awful threatening of God to the wicked, who continue his incorrigible enemies through this life, under all the methods taken to reclaim them, in Deut. xxxii
. 35, etc.: “ To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For I lift my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgments, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy."
The punishment bere threatened to the obstinately wicked