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duties of Christianity, what claim can they have to its privileges?
The parable of the talents (Matt. xxv.) teaches, that the present life is the only day of probation. I believe it is not disputed, that the time when the Lord cometh and reckoneth with His servants, (ver. 19.) is the day of judgment. "He then finds one of the three," says Mr. Horbery, "who, instead of trading with his talent, had "hid it in the earth: that is, in the moral and application "of the parable, had not made that use of his probationary "state, and of the several powers, opportunities, and "capacities (the sum of all which is represented by the "talent,) answerable and correspondent thereto, which "he ought to have done. How now does his Lord decide "in this affair? Does he, on this fair occasion, give the "most distant hint that he will bear any longer with him, "that he will try him once more; or, because he has "failed here, remove him to some more advantageous situation, where he may stand a better chance for improvement? Directly the contrary; he takes the talent entirely from him; that is, the whole sum of his powers CL as a moral and free agent; and casts him into a place, "agreeable to this state of moral inactivity, without light or liberty without motive, inducement, or example to "grow better."*
"The instrumental cause of salvation," says Lampe, "is the preaching of the Gospel. But the word of "Jehovah is restricted unto a specific day, To-day; "which once elapsed, the contemners of his word shall "not enter into his rest, Psa. xcv. 7, 11. compared with "Heb iii. 7. For he is our God, and we are the people "of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To-day, if 66 ye will hear his voice-Unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest"Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day, if ye
* Inquiry into the Scriptural Doetrine of Future Punishment, p. 46.
"will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the "provocation :-So I sware in my wrath, they shall not "enter into my rest.' But preachers are necessary in "order to the preaching of the Gospel. We are not, "however, informed of any being sent to the region of "the damned, to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation. "If any were to be sent, it might be supposed that they "would be of the number of the faithful. But this is "likewise declared impossible: Luke xvi. 26. ́ And be"sides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf "fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you, "cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come "from thence.' There are here as many weighty 66 reasons as there are words. Mention is made of a "gulf, which alone is the indication of an impassable "region. It is great by the very nature thereof. It is "fixed by the unchangeable counsel of God. Nay, it "renders the way impassable to them that would, and that "from both sides. And Abraham urges this consider"ation above all, the very equity of the proceeding, "which resulted from our former enjoyments. In "which manner, both a moral and a physical necessity is "indicated; and also impossibility in every respect, through any new legislation of God; or the least "abatement, much less freedom, to be obtained from the "chains of darkness. Can we imagine that Abraham "would have been represented as so inimical to his own "son, and unwilling to excite in him the least hope of the "alleviation of his misery, if any could have been "indulged? And was it not more agreeable to the "infinite mercy of God, that he should cherish and strengthen the smallest sparks of divine love in one deprecating him, if any ray of it should have appeared?"*
* Dissertation concerning the Endless Duration of Punishment, p. 39, 40.
Mr. Winchester says, "I believe that Jesus Christ was not only able to pass, but that he actually did pass "that gulf, which was impassable to all men, but not to "him and he assures St. John that he had passed it; "and not only so, but that he had the keys of the same "in his possession, Rev. i. 18."* Jesus Christ assured the apostle John that He had "the keys of hell and of "death," but He does not say “that He had passed" the gulf. Must we believe that every jailer, who has the keys of a prison, will certainly set all the prisoners at liberty?
But Mr. W. has much other proof that Jesus Christ crossed the gulf, and preached to the spirits in prison. After quoting 1 Pet. iii. 18—20—iv. 5, 6. which passages have already been considered, he refers to Isa. xlii. 6, 7. If Mr. W. had read on, he would have found that, not the inhabitants of hell, but the inhabitants of the earth-the sea-the isles-the wilderness-the citiesthe villages of Kedar, &c. are called upon to " sing unto "the Lord a new song," for making this covenant with them.
"Christ was not only designed," says Mr. W. " to be "a covenant of the people, (meaning the Jews) and a "light to the Gentiles,-which two descriptions compre"hend all the living, but also to bring out the prisoners "from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of "the prison-house, which (if it be not a repetition) must "intend the dead, as all the living were mentioned "before, Isa. xlix. 6—10."t But why should Mr. W. doubt about its being a repetition? Is not the preserved of Israel, a repetition of the tribes of Jacob? Mr. W. says, the people means the Jews; if so, the preserved of Israel, and the tribes of Jacob, are both repetitions signifying the same people. And several other repetitions might be shown in this passage. If Mr. W. had only read the two + Dialogues, p. 68, 69.
* Dialogues, p. 66.
next verses, he would have seen that these prisoners are not.commanded to go forth from hell: "And I will make "all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be ex"alted. Behold, these shall come from far; and, lo, "these from the north and from the west; and these "from the land of Sinim."
Isa. Ixi. 1—3. is introduced, (p. 69.) without any comment; as though it did not leave room for a doubt about our Lord's mission to hell. Jesus Christ preached from this text one sabbath-day na synagogue at Nazareth; and opened His discourse with this remarkable observation, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears, Luke iv.16—21.
Once more,- "Our Lord Jesus Christ," says Mr. W. "by his process, hath laid a foundation for the recovery "of all men; for to this end Christ both died, rose, and "revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and "living, Rom. xiv. 9." p. 70. Read the two preceding verses: "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man "dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto "the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; "whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lords." Mr. W.'s argument is this, Those who live unto the Lord, and die unto the Lord are assured that they are His both in life and death, for He is Lord both of the dead and living; therefore those who live unto the devil, and die unto the devil, shall be the Lord's!!! Ephes. iv. 8-10. is cited (p. 72.) without a word of comment; we have therefore to guess where the stress is laid. Is it supposed that the lower parts of the earth means hell? Then it seems the local situation of hell is at last determined! Yet we ought surely to have had some proof. The same phrase occurs in Psalm cxxxix. 15. It is there applied to the womb: "My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth." A similar phrase occurs in Matt. xii. 40. and is there applied to the grave: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in
"the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three "days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Our Lord's soul being three days and three nights in hell, could be no sign to the scribes and Pharisees; but His resurrection from the grave on the third day, was calculated to create full conviction of His being the Messiah. It is not material in which of these senses we take the words of the apostle, for they are both equally unfavourable to a descent into hell.
Zech. ix. 11. Isa. xlix. 24. are introduced, (p. 73.) like the above, without any sort of proof that the pit intends hell, or that the captive is a damned spirit. David was in the pit, and Israel in captivity, but neither the one nor the other was in hell.
"Psa. cvii. 10-16. This amazing deliverance," says Mr. W. p. 73, seems to be described in such language << as corresponds much better with the deliverance of the "spirits from their dreadful prison, than with any tem"poral mercies that are bestowed on mankind here on "earth." The deliverance here spoken of had taken place when the Psalm was penned: He SAVED them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and BRAKE their bands in sunder.He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. If this passage, therefore, prove the doctrine of Universal Restoration, that happy event had taken place some hundreds of years before Christ appeared in the world.
I have, at last, gone through all the proofs which Mr. W. offers, that Jesus Christ passed the impassable gulf to preach salvation to those who cry in vain for a drop of water. Mr. Vidler has added notes to this part of the subject, which contain nothing remarkable, except a few Hebrew and Greek characters, from which we perceive that Mr. V. is a learned gentleman. His abilities, as a Critic, will be examined under the last Section.