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That he seems to endeavour to prove it, is certain : but at the same time he mentions several objections (tho' not near all he might have mentioned) against such punishments; particularly, " that they are inconsistent with “the justice and goodness of God.”
« This objection,” says. the archbishop, “ hath “ been attempted to be answered several
ways, none of which seems to me to give " clear and full satisfaction to it.” He then specifies one of these answers, for the particulars of which the reader is referred to the sermon itself, and faith ; " But this I doubt “ will upon examination be found to have “ more of subtilty than of solidity in itu? This might perhaps with equal justice and reason be said, not only of all the other an fwers he quotes, but of his own also, on which he seems to lay great stress, and by it attempts to solve this difficulty. And indeed he does afterwards acknowledge, " that this “ misery is so terribly severe, that at present “ we can hardly tell how to reconcile it with " the JUSTICE AND GOODNESS of God." He undertakes nevertheless to prove, “ the eternal punishment of wicked men in “ another world is plainly threatned in scrip“ture.” It is a common cafe, this : when men find reason againft them, then they have fecourse to authority. What honour or fer
vice they, by this means, do the authority they appeal to, is left for them to shew. However, the point, that this punishment is threátned in feripture, the archbishop seems to think plainly made out. But, after all, the good-natured prelate appears sensible, that the executing these threatnings would be fo contrary to "the ESSENTIAL PERFEC* TIONS of the divine nature,” that he is very defirdus to find a salvo in the cafe. “ He " that threatens,” says the bishop, “keeps
the right of punishing in his own hands, « and is not obliged to execute what he “ hath threatned any farther than the rea« fons and ends of government do require : W and he may, without any injury to the “ party threathed, remit and abate as much
as he pleaseth of the punishment that he “ hath threatned.” This is indeed true of man: but can any thing be more unlike God than to threaten what he never intends to perform? Let it but be proved, that God hath threatned, and surely no man in his fenses will dare to doubt the execution. But the case will be very different, if Men have presumed to threaten IN THE NAME OF God, and without his authority,
What a poor shift is here! Is this like the archbishop's usual candor? What a task do men undertake, when they labour to 3
prove doctrines directly contrary to reason, and perhaps to their own sentiments also! But truth at laft prevailed: for a little after this remarkable passage he acknowledges, that a
rest assured, God will judge “ the world in righteousness; and if it be
any wise inconsistent either with righteous“ ness or goodness, which he knows much a better than we do, to make finners mife« rable for ever, that he will not do it; nor " is it credible, that he would THREATEN “ finners with a punishment which he could “not execute upon them.” Let the reader judge, by what is last said, if both the execution and the THREATNINGS also. of eternal punishments do not appear to be entirely given up by this great man.
We will pro ceed, however, to our third article, That the scriptures plainly denounce everlasting punishments.
WHETHER they do or not, divines and other learned men differ greatly, as it is well: known they do also about the true meaning of scripture in a multitude of places. Some fuppofe the words for ever and everlasting may be taken, and are frequently used, in a limited sense: others are very positive, that in those places where they relate to punishments, they are intended, and ought to be understood, in an unlimited sense. Of this
datter opinion the above-mentioned prelate has declared himself, and assigns feveral reasons for being so. But supposing, tho' by no means 'granting, that these punishments are plainly denounced in the scripture, this question will then arise : Were all parts of those writings given forth by divine inspiration, or only certain parts of them? If the latter, then it is possible at least that these threatnings of everlasting punishments may be some of those passages not given forth by divine inspiration, and consequently are to be regarded as proceeding merely from private opinion. This point, whether the scriptures in the whole, or only in part, were divinely revealed, hath also been very warmly disputed.
SECTION IV. SOME
1E very ancient christians, as well as
several of the greatest and most learned modern divines, have been clearly of opinion, that not only many particular passages of the scriptures, but even divers whole books, were not written by divine revelation.
EUSEBIUS, in his history of the church", says, that the epistle of James, the epistle of
Fude, y M.Cousin's translation into French, 1. ii.c. XXV. p. 157.
Jude, the second of Peter, the second and third of yohn, are not generally received. And after mentioning several falfe and counterfeit books, as the Acts of Paul, the Book of the Shepherd, the Revelation of Peter, the Epiftle of Barnabas, and the Institutions of the Apostles, he adds, “and among these may be s placed the Apocalypse of John, which some expunge
from the number of the sacred « books, and others think may remain.” Concerning this revelation of John, the fame author z informs us what Denys bishop of Alexandria faid concerning it, which begins thus: “ Some of those,” says Denys, " who “ lived before our times, have absolutely rejected this book, and having examined it “ chapter by chapter from the beginning to “the end, have thewed, that there is neither “ sense nor reason in it. They say also, that " the title is false, because the book was not “ written by John, and that it abounds too * much with ignorance to be a revelation. 16 They affure us, that this book was not “composed by any one of the apoftles, nor "even by any of the holy authors of the s church : that it is a forgery of Cerintbus, “ who making himself head of a sect, assumed ce the name of John to authorise his extravagant fancies."
% Ibid. 1. vii. c. XXV. p. 361, 362.