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in his eye the case of that age; and has determined nothing about the question, whether few, out of the whole Christian world, will be saved at the last day.

And if he has not determined it here, I am not aware that either he or his apostles have done it in any other passage of the New Testament. There is a most magnificent description, Apoc. vii. of the number of the blessed; where, after the sealing of the hundred and forty and four thousand out of the tribes of Israel, the apostle adds, ver. 9. After this, I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. The Letter Writer above never thought, I presume, of this passage, when he every where represents those that shall be saved, as "a handful of men, a small number of the "elect." As scripture gives us no warrant for such a conclusion, so neither does reason or experience. One half of our species die, perhaps, before they have actually committed any sin to deserve the damnation of hell; and therefore, by the mercy of God, and the merits of his Son, it may be reasonably hoped that they will escape it. And as to the rest, whoever thus damns the majority must say that the far greater number of the Christian world, in all ages of it, lived and died impenitently wicked; a point which I find myself in no disposition, at present, either to confute or believe.

These are some of the misrepresentations of our doctrine on which prejudices are raised, and objec

tions formed against it. Another thing, always mentioned on this subject, is the shortness of human life; the sins of which can bear no proportion to punishments of endless duration. Now suppose human life as long as it was in the beginning, almost a thousand years, the plea of disproportion would still subsist; for even a thousand years bear no proportion to the days of eternity. And yet I suppose a moral agent, in a state of probation, may behave in such a manner, in much less time than that, as to affect his whole future existence. He

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• See this objection largely considered in archbishop Dawes's seventh Sermon, p. 232—240. “I hardly know where the stress "of this objection is laid; whether on the shortness of the pre"sent term of life, or on this, that no temporary sins, of whatso“ever duration, ought to be punished with eternal torments. But "take both; as thus-It is unjust and cruel to punish temporary sins with eternal misery, and it is more unjust, and more "cruel, so to punish the sins of our short life: still, I say, if the "considerations offered above be true, the objection is fully an"swered by them. It was best upon the whole, that is, greater "good was produced by it, that God should establish the present system, or constitution of things, than the contrary. Agreeably "to this constitution, such certain consequences will follow such a course of behaviour. Men knew this; they were forewarned "of it; nay, they were entreated, invited, pressed by all sorts of motives, to take another course. Still they persist, and die in "their sins. Death does not convert them, nor change their "wills; they continue the same evil beings; and though the acts "of corruption (I use the terms of a distinction made use of by "the Letter Writer) may be restrained in them, yet the source of "it, or corruption itself, still remains. This is one natural source "of their eternal misery; and, in this sense, their sin is as eternal "as their punishment; that by refusing to repent during their "probation, while they had liberty and power to do so, they have "brought themselves into a state, where repentance is hid from "their eyes."

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may forfeit, irretrievably, that state of happiness, to which another course of behaviour would have entitled him; and he must take the consequences of that other state, which he has fitted himself for, and into which he departs by a sort of natural congruity. Here then some of the principles we laid down in the former part of this chapter come into play. If a character be formed incurably evil, where is the difference whether it was done in a little or a long time? If it be said, that if he had lived longer, he might have repented; it is as easily answered, that this is arguing in the dark. And we have at least as much reason to say, that it was an act of mercy to take him away soon, that he might not treasure up to himself a greater degree, of misery. But I conceive these things are rather above our sphere, and that human ignorance is answer enough to any objections which proceed only upon difficulties of this kind. We know, in general, that when the term of life was longer, men were far from being the better for it; and that the shortness, as well as uncertainty of life, is an argument to lead men to repentance. But that all futurity should depend upon this short life, our adversaries tell us, is the hardship: and yet they are at a loss to tell us how it should be otherwise. Those of them who are for retrieving matters in the intermediate state, are confuted by others, who shew that that state is not calculated for the practice of virtue or vice, so as that they may change the habits of the one or the other, with which they left this world. Besides, it is contrary to the scripture; which always makes the sentence at the last day turn upon men's conduct here, and

the actions which they did in the body. And they who are for amendment in hell are likewise contradicted by their fellow-labourers, who say, (and they say truly,) that in gehenna, or hell, there is no repentance.

Thus far, in conclusion, I am willing to own to them; that whenever the wicked repent truly, so as to change their dispositions and temper, it will, in the nature of things, be the better for them. For a virtuous temper is not only a foundation for happiness, but is itself a considerable part of it. But then, at the same time, even upon this (which is their own) supposition of reformation, it will not follow that they will be made partakers of that happiness, and that heavenly kingdom, which they were shut out of at the day of judgment. No; some privileges, some opportunities, once lost, may be lost for ever. So that still much depends upon this life, short as it is: so that I cannot forbear thinking that this disproportion, so much talked of, is a very fallacious rule to judge by in this momentous affair.

I shall not here more minutely pursue any other particular objections. They are all obviated, I conceive, by what has been said; or may be answered by a right application of the principles discussed above. They are in a great measure answered only by a fair representation of our doctrine, as they mostly proceed from mistakes concerning it. When understood rightly, and considered without prejudice or passion, men have less to say against it than they imagined. It is implied in the very notion of

P See Burnet de Statu Mort. cap. iv. omnino.

religion, that a distinction will some time be made between the righteous and the wicked. This distinction will be made solemnly and perfectly at the day of judgment; when the righteous shall enter into that kingdom of glory and happiness, which was prepared for them from the beginning of the world; and the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, or into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels. So far as relates to the mere exclusion of the wicked out of the kingdom of the just, there surely can be no reasonable ground of complaint. It can be no state of a perfect and righteous retribution without it. Then as to the degrees of positive punishment which they will suffer, they will be various, and exactly proportioned to their deserts. For though they are bid to depart into the everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels; yet the meaning of that is not, (as perhaps it may sound to some,) that they all suffer alike, as it were in one common furnace of fire, in the same invariable and extreme degree; but, as is plain from many other passages of scripture, as well as from reason itself, every one bears his own burden, suffers for his own sin, and in proportion to it; has the measure of punishment which he meted out to himself, and reaps only what he sowed; so that it will be much more tolerable for some than for others. The scripture never represents this state of misery as a state of purgation or purification, or any thing like or analogous to a state of trial, where they may fit and qualify themselves for some better state of existence: but always as a state of retribution, and punishment, and righteous vengeance; in which the justice of God (a perfection of which

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