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sity, the sinper is now more usually cheered and flattered in his headlong career, by promises of an eventual termination of the punishment to be hereafter inflicted on his soul. The early stratagem of the devil is for the most part rejected, and, following his more recent example in the temptation of Christ, the scriptures themselves are perverted to the uses of fraud and seduction. They are acknowledged to contain denunciations against the wicked, imperative and excluding as this, " These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” But then everlasting does not mean, everlasting. Eternity is not, eternity. They are as much limited in relation to the future, as when expressly employed in reference to the present. Hath God said unto Abraham, “ All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever?" In point of duration, he means no more, when in our text, he assures the wicked, that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever."
Wretched, miserable sophistry! Suffer yourselves, Brethren, to be ensnared by this delusion; make up your minds to believe, that there is no distinction between eternal, everlasting, and forever, as applied to time, and the same words, as applied to the period, when time shall be no more; and the consequence is, that as it was said by the prophet," the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow," so may it be said of the everlasting perfections of God. No longer, in the usual acceptation, can we speak of his eternal power and glory, of his being the everlasting Father, and God blessed for ever, even from everlasting to everlasting. In the employment of these terms, we have been altogether mistaken and deceived. All these divine attributes, this power and this glory, this perennial blessedness, this endless duration, are to be hereafter as completely scattered, as "the everlasting mountains were scattered, and as “the perpetual hills did bow.” Will you agree to this only fair construction, this ultimate extinction of your Creator, your Preserver, your reconciled God and Father in Jesus Christ? Can you tolerate the idea of living and of being happy in the spiritual world, as the sinner professes to live happy in this, without God, without the light of his smiles, and the riches of his grace?
I will even suppose the righteous to be capable of such base ingratitude, and still, there are questions of some moment to be canvassed and determined aright. Where is the warrant for this hap
piness? Where is the warrant for immortality itself? Do you point me to the scripture, which asserts that there shall be a transmission of the righteous into life eternal ?" I present you in the same verse with the equally explicit declaration made of the unrighteous,“ These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” Where then is the distinction? In the original Greek, there is none. The same word is translated by the synonymes, eternal and everlasting. So that, if the one is to be pared down and diminished to signify a limited period of punishment; the other must be subjected to a similar process, in relation to reward, Happiness will have an end. Misery will have an end. Our boasted immortality either becomes a farce, or else the impassable gulf must be crossed, and that too, by the just as well as the unjust. Their places will be changed, and their respective conditions reversed. The miserable will be happy, and the happy, miserable.
Yes, Brethren, such are the consequences of tampering with the oracles of truth; of moulding them to correspond with the inclinations of sinners; of refining upon their legitimate construction, so that we may retain, through false, delusive hopes, the privilege of calling evil, good, and good, evil. I defy any man to prove from the bible the abatement of one particle of eternal death, without at the same time diminishing the duration of eternal life. And although the poor sinner, determined on all occasions to pursue the phantom pleasure, may little regard the inevitable inference, Where are the righteous, prepared to adopt it, prepared to be satisfied with a portion of future happiness, that, however long and ravishing, is still destined to vanish away, and be no more remembered? There are none, no not one. The soul clings to the hope of immortal felicity, as its best sheet-anchor, amid the storms and tempests, which crowd upon the voyage of life. It seeks not a fading and perishable, but an unfading and imperishable crown. It reposes not upon the God of the dead, but upon the God of the quick and everliving spirit.
Nor is this the only objection to the forced interpretations, to which I have referred you. If it is possible for us to think of eternal punishment, it is certainly possible, that the Almighty has ordained it. And if, notwithstanding all that is affirmed to the contrary, it should finally prove to be thus, you will coincide in opinion with me, that the knowledge of so important an event ought to have
been communicated to the beings exposed to its dreadful retribution. Upon this statement, I ask you then, what more precise and definite language could be employed, than that which is already written? Can you supply God with expressions more significant than eternal, everlasting, for ever and ever? I know of none, or if there be, you have them in the well known sentence, three times repeated in Mark,“ their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.?" Do you think, that our liability to misconstrue is not sufficiently guarded against? It is written, “ Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth,, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Do you imagine, that the terrors of the dread unknown should have been more strongly contrasted with the idols we are here required to abandon? You cannot construct a figure equally forcible and energetick with this, “ If thy hand offend thee, cut it off;—if thy foot,-cut it off;—if thine eye,--pluck it out:-it is better for thee to enter into life maimed,-halt with one eyeg--than having two hands,-two feet,-two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire.” Will you contend, that some examples should have been given of individuals condemned to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire? “ The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes being in torments.” He solicits relief, and no relief is granted. Will you affirm, that it was merely delayed? I appeal to the case of Judas, of whom it is said, “ Wo to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born." A declaration utterly inapplicable and unmeaning, provided he is to be received up into mansions of unceasing rest and beatitude, after a limited period of suffering.
Before then you renounce the doctrine, that the punishment of the wicked in future state, never terminates; before you insist, that there is hope for the reprobate, and enlargement for the damned; let me once more inquire, Can you supply the Almighty with verbal expressions, warnings, illustrations, and examples more precise and definite than these? That many persons profess to be wise above what is written, I am forced to admit. But let them bring forth their strong reasons; let them tax their ingenuity; let them ransack their inventive powers, as long as they please, and they will still fail, in strength, in emphasis, in whatever constitutes pres
cision and tertainty, to rival the clear and unambiguous terms, in which the eternal “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Be it also remembered, as intimately connected with this idea, that if there be no such thing as eternal misery, in the sense for which I contend; Why has the God of all grace and goodness, He, whose tender mercies are over all his works; Why has he adopted language, so fearfully calculated to mislead and agonize his frail dependant creatures? Why did he not rather caution them against an impression, so fatal to their peace of mind, by declaring, that he was too good to punish, too fond and affectionate to cast away sinhers everlastingly from his presence? He must have known, that preachers of the gospel would address themselves, as they accustomed to do, to the fears of men; that they would frequently cause their eyes to weep and their hearts to bleed, as they freely expatiated upon unspeakable and perpetual torment. He must have known, that many surviving relatives would go mourning all their days, from melancholy forebodings of the eternal perdition of those, whom they once folded in the arms of fond affection. But if it is all a lie, the preposterous invention of fools and bigots; Why did he not, in pity and compassion to our race, remove the fruitful source of many sorrows, by some such language as this, Beware of men, who, while they acknowledge my readiness to pardon the penitent and reward the obedient, are still continually announcing, as from me, that I will by no means clear the guilty; that the wine of my wrath shall be poured out upon them without mixture; that the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever?” Why did he not reprobate them thus, They are false prophets; they lie in wait to deceive ; "their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips," and their “mouth is full of cursing and bitterness ?" It would have been easy; it would have been reasonable and merciful; it would have been highly becoming and Godlike. And yet, nothing of the kind exists. No one can lay his finger upon a revelation, which, if true, would have been so worthy of the benevolence of God; so grateful and encouraging to the heart of man. Why then this portentous silence, this fatal absence of one consolatory passage, when in the apprehension of a vast majority of the pious and holy, there are so many to annoy the fears, and destroy the expectations of the wicked}
I am at no loss for a reply. I find it early and emphatically recorded in the scriptures, “ God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?” Shall he say, that there is no eternity of suffering, when there is? Shall he say to the sinner, that he will not hereafter visit him with consuming fire, when he hath already prepared it for him, for the devil, and his angels? No, no, the eternal God is not thus inconstant and variable; not so much like a man.
" He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil;" but then his will and his word never change; they are immutable as are his own perfections. He has created, and he can destroy, eternally destroy both body and sout in hell.” Fear ye therefore him. « Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little, Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
It may indeed be observed of all those, who apply the flattering unction of universal salvation to their souls, that they are much more inclined to confide in their own conceptions of the character of God; in those general impressions, which they have formed of his matchless goodness and benignity, than in the more detailed and expanded light, which in the holy scriptures is thrown around him, and that preserves unbroken the entire unity and perfection of all his attributes; his purity, his holiness, his justice, as well as his love, his mercy, his compassion. And could I resort to the same mode of unraveling his designs; could I think it becoming a poor worm of the dust to hold up to view one moiety of his character, and at the same time industriously, not to say perversely, conceal the other, I should meet with no difficulty in rushing to the same conclusion. The divine mercy I would laud to the skies. The divine justice I would consign to be managed by those, who, in their efforts to sustain it, are not unfrequently branded with the epithet of fanaticks.
I will go further. I will freely confess, that, so far as reason is concerned, so far as that light of nature which through all her works declares the glory and the goodness of God, nothing would appear so manifestly absurd, and even derogatory to him, as the doctrine of everlasting misery. It is not visible in the pleasant sunshine, in the refreshing shower, in the variegated tints, which