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nature and fitness of things. Is it indeed! Pray, gentlemen, who told you fo? How came you to know this? You will be fadly puzzled to make it out by scripture ; and, most certainly, REASON did not teach it you. On this subject let me ask a question: How could it consist with the goodness and wisdom of God, to form a creature who he knew would act in such a manner, that according TO THE NATURE AND FITNESS OF THINGS, he must be EVERLASTINGLY miserable? As the universe is created and governed by a being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, all things must finally and on the whole be for the best; but is it finally and on the whole for the best, that any of his creatures should be for ever tormented ?
INDEED, were the generality of finners and unbelievers to suffer everlasting torments, what an inconceivable and inexpreffible scene of misery would the human part of God's creation exhibit! Millions of millions, numbers beyond conception, of his creatures, suffering, as hath been said by an author already quoted, “punishment without pity,
misery without any mercy, forrow without ** succour, malice without measure, torment " without ease,” and to all eternity. Hard
• See this passage at length in page 98, &c. in the Effay of Religious Cruelty, and from whence taken.
** * As
then would the lot of poor man be! Here his days are few and full of forrow, and, according to some mens opinions, he seems necessitated to come into this world for little else but to be damned in the next; where, fay they, he is compelled to live for ever, that he may be for ever miserable.
If this was the deplorable condition of our
* As my will
INEXPLICABLE indeed, were this the case. But we hope it has been evidently made to appear,
First, That the justice and glory of God are so far from requiring he should punish
finners * Paradise Lost, book X,
finners and unbelievers with eternal torments, that fuch punishments would be directly contrary to both.
SECONDLY, That notwithstanding very great men, divines especially, may have taught this doctrine, yet it is highly probable many of these have not believed it themfelves, but inculcated this opinion for some particular purposes ; and if they had believed it, that for very great persons to be mistaken is not at all unusual.
THIRDLY, That learned men do not agree, whether these punishments' are denounced by scripture or not: and if some passages should seem very much to favour the opinion that they are, yet as divers parts of fcripture were certainly not given forth by diviné inspiration, and others, according to the apostle Peter, " are hard to be understood;” fuch passages may be justly included among one or other of thofe, and consequently not of sufficient authority in this point: and indeed, that no authority can be sufficient to command our affent to what is contrary to the effential attributes of the Deity &
If any doctrine is either mediately or immediately contrary to the moral attributes of God, the confequence is, that such doctrine cannot be true; nor can any evidence (no not miracles themselves) prove, that
FOURTHLY, It seems evident, that this belief is not so necessary or effectual as is commonly thought, to deter men from being wicked; and that a doctrine so contrary to the divine goodness cannot be any part of the foundation of a liberal and a true religion, although it may of a llavith and a false one; that it is attended with many very bad consequences, particularly imbittering mens lives, creating in their minds impious opinions of the Deity, or rendering them atheists.
CERTAINLY, if we believe the world was created and is governed by a being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, we must allow, that all absolute evil is necessarily excluded from the universe ; and doubtless eternal misery would be an evil of this kind.
A QUESTION may here arise: Do we not all experience many evils both physical and moral? We do indeed! And this occasioned some persons to imagine, tho’ weakly, that the world was created and is governed by two beings, one good and the other bad: and according to a common opinion among the greater part of christians, who in words disclaim this doctrine, the world seems divided, tho' very unequally, between two such powers : I say unequally; for by the number
of such a notion can come from God. The Scripture Doce trine of the Redemptian, &c. By A. A. Sykes, D. D.
C. I. p. 5.
of wicked' perfons so vastly exceeding the good, it appears, if this opinion be true, that the devil has beyond comparison the greater part of mankind under his dominion. But this only by the way.
Since the existence of evil, physical as well as moral, although but temporary in this world, hath greatly puzzled the wiseft and most learned men to reconcile with the univerfe being created and governed by a Deity of infinite wisdom, power, and good ness; how totally irreconcileable with the universe being so created and governed would it be, were absolute and everlasting evil to exist in the other world?
As God is infinitely powerful, he could, if he had fo pleased, have prevented all evils as he is perfectly good, he certainly will not permit, much less cause or inflict, any evil which is not ultimately productive of good: but eternal misery or torment, which is undoubtedly the greatest of evils, cannot be ultimately productive of good; therefore certainly God will not cause, or infict, or even fuffer it. Everlasting misery can indeed no more produce good, than everlasting darkness can produce light. In regard to temporary, physical evils, we may suppose they will end in good, and this perhaps is the only fup*