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4. It ought to be observed, that though these Scriptures have been produced only to show that it is abundantly asserted that a sore and awful punishment awaits all the wicked in the future state who die impenitent; yet, from an attentive view of them, they prove more, even that this punishment will be without end. This has been remarked concerning a number of Scriptures that have been mentioned, in which the punish. ment is not expressly said to be everlasting ; but that it will be so, is necessarily implied, and the same remark might be made concerning a number of others. And it may be observed here, that what the Scripture says of future punishment, being considered in one collective view, nothing can be found which carries the least intimation that this punishment will ever end; which we might expect, since there is so much said of it, if this were true; especially, since there is such infinite difference between a temporary and an endless punishment, and it is of such importance to men to know whether it be without end or not; but, on the contrary, the whole taken together, or if every passage be viewed separately, it carries the complexion of an endless punishment; especially since it is so often, and in such a particular way and connection, asserted to be eternal and everlasting. But as this was not to be particularly considered under this head, it of course brings us to the next section.
The Holy Scriptures teach that the future Punishment of the
Wicked will be endless.
It is particularly and abundantly declared in the Holy Scriptures, that the future punishment of the wicked will have no end.
The evidence of this proposition will be produced under the following particulars :
acter. Why then is this punishment threatened, and said to be inflicted only on one class of men, of a particular character, viz., those who have no love to Christ, are unbelievers, know not God, and do not obey the gospel, etc., while not one threatening, but promises of deliverance and salvation, are made to those of a different and contrary character, and it is abundantly declared that while the former are punished with everlasting destruction, the latter shall not be punished or condemned, but have everlasting life? This is impossible.
On the whole, do not such notions and evasions as these serve to show how weak and defenceless their cause is who assert there is no punishment for any man in the world to come, rather than to give it so much as any plausible support? Surely they tend to render the Bible useless and contemptible. Must not every consistent friend to that sacred book reject them with abhorrence, and not without surprise that they should ever be thought of by any man?
First. The punishment of the wicked is many times, in the Scriptures, expressly declared to be everlasting, eternal, and to continue forever.
These passages have been mentioned under the preceding head, but must be rehearsed here, with a view to illustrate this particular. “It is said, that the wicked perish forever.” (Job xx. 7.) “ When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed forever.” (Ps. xcii. 7.) The evil that is coming on sinners is called "everlasting burnings.” And the prophet Daniel, speaking of the wicked, says, they shall rise to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan. xii. 2.) St. Paul, speaking of Christ's coming to judgment, to take vengeance on all that have not known and obeyed him, says, they shall be punished with everlasting destruction. The apostles Peter and Jude, speaking of the punishment of the wicked, say, “ To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever." “ To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (2 Pet. ii. 17. Jude i. 7, 13.) And Christ himself has repeatedly declared, that the punishment of the wicked will be everlasting. “ He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (Mark iii. 29.) “It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.” (Matt. xviii. 8.) “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt. xxv. 41, 46.) On the last-mentioned words, the following observations may be made:
1. Our Savior here gives a particular and solemn representation of the day of judgment, and states the issue of it, both to the righteous and the wicked, very particularly, and doubtless uses language that is quite plain and intelligible, so that the final state of one and the other is precisely stated, and will be clearly suggested, without need of any labored criticism. The subject is of infinite importance to all; and when our divine Teacher undertakes to give a particular account of it, and to tell all men, of every capacity, learned and unlearned, what are the different and opposite characters of those whom he will set on his right hand, and on his left, and what will be the sentence which he will pronounce on each ; what will be the reward and happiness of the one, and what the punishment and misery of the other, we may be sure he has chosen words that are most plain and easy to be understood, and best suited to convey the truth, and has properly guarded against every mistake. He has not left us in the dark about the duration of the happiness of the righteous, or punishment of the wicked, whether the one or the other shall be endless, or infinitely short of it, but most certainly has stated this important point, in which we are all so much interested, very precisely, so that we are in no danger of making a mistake, and of taking his meaning to be infinitely otherwise than it really is, unless it be wholly our own fault.
2. The word which our Savior uses twice, in this passage, to denote the duration of the punishment of the wicked, and tell us how long this shall last, he has used twenty times on various occasions, and in different discourses, and in every one of these instances he evidently uses it in exactly one and the same sense, and intends by it an endless duration. And when he uses it twice here on purpose to tell us how long the punishment of the wicked shall continue, is it possible that he should intend by it something infinitely different, a duration infinitely short of endless, and that without giving the least intimation of his using it in such a different sense ? So far from this, he uses it in such a connection here as will naturally lead us to understand him as designing to express an endless duration, though he had never used the word on any other occasion. This leads to another remark.
3. The same word is used here, in the very same sentence, to express the endless life and happiness of the righteous, which is used to denote the duration of the punishment of the wicked. “ And these shall go away into everlasting punment, but the righteous into life eternal.” The word in our translation is indeed varied, though everlasting and eternal have precisely the same meaning, but in the original, the very same word is used in each part of the sentence, and might be most exactly rendered, These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life. If the life into which the righteous go be endless, which all grant, and Jesus uses a word here to express such a duration, then certainly the same word, used in the same sentence to express the duration of the punishment into which the wicked shall go, must mean an endless duration ; especially, as the life of the righteous and punishment of the wicked are set in direct opposition to each other. If the punishment of the wicked were temporary and must have an end, and the life of the righteous endless, so that the former is as nothing compared with the latter, and the wicked as well as the righteous were equally to enjoy everlasting life, would Christ thus set the endless happiness of the righteous and the temporary misery of the wicked in direct opposition to each other, and in the same sentence use the same word to express a duration infinitely different? This cannot be, for such a supposition makes him confound language as never any man did, and renders it perfectly unintelligible and insignificant. This represents Him, who is full of grace and truth, and came into the world to reveal the wonderful love and grace of God, and accomplish and display the great salvation of man, as using words and speaking in a manner which tends to deceive men, and make them believe that this salvation is far less extensive than it really is, and lead them to think he will punish the wicked infinitely more than he designs, - that the duration of this punishment will be equal to that of the happiness of the righteous, when, in truth, it is infinitely less, and not worthy to be mentioned in comparison with the latter. This be far from him. And if it be, there is as much reason to conclude, from his most express and pointed assertion, that the punishment of the wicked will be without end as that the happiness of the righteous will be so; yea, we may be as sure of it as we can be that he is a teacher come from God.
SECONDLY. The endless punishment of the wicked is expressed a number of times in Scripture in words yet more emphatical, if possible, when it is said to continue forever and ever. “ And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.” (Rev. xiv. 10, 11.) “And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up forever and ever.” (Rev. xix. 3.) “ And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev. xx. 10.) And all the wicked are said to be cast into this lake.
66 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. xx. 15.) “ But the fearful, and unbelieving, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” (Rev. xxi. 8.)
This expression, á forever and ever," is found twenty-two times in the original in the New Testament. It is used eight times in the epistles of St. Paul and Peter, where they ascribe glory, honor, and praise and dominion to God, forever and ever. It is found fourteen times in this Book of the Revelation. It is used twice to express the duration of the kingdom and reign of Christ and the redeemed. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. xi. 15.) " And there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. xxii. 5.) Three times it is used to express the endless duration of the power, glory, and dominion of God." To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Rev. i. 6.) “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever." (Rev. v. 13.) “ Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever.” (Rev. vii. 12.) Six times it is used to express the endless existence and life of God. “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore.” (Rev. i. 18.) The words are the same in the original which are elsewhere translated " forever and ever." “And when those four beasts give glory, and honor, and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth forever and ever.” (Rev. iv. 9, 10.) “ And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth forever and ever.” (Rev. v. 14.) “ And sware by him that liveth forever and ever.” (Rev. x. 6.) “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials, full of the wrath of God who liveth forever and ever.” (Rev. xv. 7.) The same words are used three times to express the duration of the punishment of the wicked, in the places which have been quoted above.
When we find the very same words used in the New Testament near twenty times to express an endless duration, and above ten times in this Book of the Revelation, and six of them most emphatically, and in the strongest manner, to mark God's eternity, or the endless duration of his existence, - and at the same time find them used three times in the same book by the same writer to denote the duration of future punishment, is it possible to mistake the meaning, and think that in these three instances only these words are used for a finite duration? How can any one think they do not mean an endless duration in these places, but something infinitely short of it, without doing violence to the Scripture and his own reason ?
If it were contrary to God's nature and perfections to punish sinners with endless misery, and very impious and most dishonorable to him, and of the worst tendency to man, for us