Page images

Mr. W. must recollect that the goodness of God is the goodness of a. Sovereign, and that the Almighty, as well as every good legislator, in framing laws for the government of his subjects, has an eye to their good, considered as a body politic.* To give energy to those laws, they must have sanctions annexed to them. The penal sanctions operate as warnings. See Rom. xi. 20, 21. 1 Cor. x. 5-11. Jude 5-7. Thus they tend to preserve order, and thereby to promote the general good. And since the influence of the threatenings will be in proportion to their magnitude, it must be perfectly consistent with the goodness of God, to lay as great a restraint upon sin as possible, consistent with moral liberty; and if the promise of everlasting happiness be not inconsistent with it, then neither is the threatening of everlasting misery.t

It is generally agreed that the good of the public requires that some particular transgressors should be cut off for ever from civil society. And if this be no argument against the goodness of human legislators, why should it be thought inconsistent with the goodness of

* "Justice can be no otherwise considered than as goodness towards "moral agents; regulated in its exercise by wisdom; or, as wisely, and "in the most proper manner pursuing, not the private and separate, but "the united good of all intelligent beings." Abernethy on the Attributes, vol. ii. p. 183.


That celebrated infidel, Lord Shaftesbury, could perceive this truth, If," says he," there be a general mind, it can have no particular interest : "but the general good, or good of the whole, and its own private good, "must of necessity be one and the same. It can intend nothing besides, "nor aim at any thing beyond, nor be provoked to any thing contrary." Characteristics, vol. i. p. 40.

+ Archbishop King has a fine remark upon this subject. "Since God," says he," has undertaken to conduct and preserve an almost infinite "multitude of thinking beings to all eternity, through all the changes and "successions of things, in as great a degree of happiness as possible, with"out violence done to elections; where is the wonder if he leave a few to "the misery which they brought upon themselves, thereby to give the rest "a warning how much they ought to stand upon their guard against the "like? And since these punishments may be conceived to promote "the good of the whole, they may arise from the goodness of the Deity." Origin of Evil, p. 505.

Divine justice that some individual sinners should be cut off for ever from the society of heaven.*

It will perhaps be objected, that though human legislators cannot, in all cases, devise modes of punishment which may, at the same time, be warnings to society, and corrective to the sufferers, yet it cannot be impossible with God to do it. I answer, that our business is not so much with what God can do, as what he hath done, and will do. Now the sacred Scriptures are decisive upon this subject. We do not perceive how the destruction of the old world, of the inhabitants of Sodom, &c. could be effected with a view to their reformation : we might as well suppose that a man is gibbeted to make him an useful member of society. When wicked professors are threatened with strong "delusion," (2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.) it is not with a view to their reformation, but their damnation. When sinners are punished in consequence of having neglected their day of visitation, God does not intend their reformation and happiness, because they will then call upon him in vain. Prov. i. 24-28. Matt. XXV. 10-12. Luke xiii. 24-28.

It has sometimes been asserted, that the consideration of limited punishment is quite sufficient to determine every reasonable being on the side of virtue. The above contains a sufficient reply to this assertion; but it may not be amiss to remark further, that the happiness arising from the practice of virtue, both in this life and that which is to come, ought to determine the choice of every reasonable and accountable being, though there were no future punishment at all. Shall we then infer that warn

*"God is to be considered under the character of a moral governor, "and therefore, in order to approve his goodness, he must consult, not so "much the happiness of any particular person, as what may, upon the "whole, be for the benefit of all that moral kingdom over which he pre"sides, and may at the same time suit the majesty and honour of his go"vernment: now for any thing we certainly know, the everlasting misery "of some sinful creatures may be the most effectual means of answering "these ends in harmony with each other." Doddridge's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 472. 4th edition,

ings are unnecessary? This would be to reflect on the wisdom of God in employing them. We must therefore infer what is true in fact, that men do not always follow the dictates of reason, that they are carried away by the violence of corrupt passions and appetites. And we cannot be sure that the threatening of endless punishment is not necessary to counteract the influence of our depravity. Certainly when we consider the powerful influence of sinful habits and examples, we cannot possibly suppose, that they are likely to be counteracted by the threatening, or rather promise of punishment, which is corrective in its nature, moderate in its quantity, limited in its duration, and glorious in its end.

"3. If the justice of eternal punishment be discover"able by us, it must be from God's having pointed it out 66 as the wages of sin, and threatened sinners with it in the "Scriptures. The Scriptures declare the wages of sin "to be death, not an endless life of torment: that the "soul that sinneth shall die, not live in misery to all eter"nity."*

An advocate for annihilation might have made these reflections without exciting much surprise, but for such a comment to come from the pen of an Universalist is truly wonderful; for if the death threatened be opposed to existence, it is as true that there will be no restoration, as that punishment will not be eternal. Death is not always opposed to existence, because some are dead while they live, 1 Tim. v. 6. Mr. W. must believe that the death threatened is a life of torment, or he must retract what he has written about "hell being in


expressibly more dreadful than the most racking pains "human nature is capable of bearing in the present "state ;"* and since there is no promise of deliverance from the torment annexed to the threatening, there is no ground for hope that the punishment will have an end. And here I will take occasion to remark, that in the re

+ Ibid. p. 16.

* Examination, p. 33.

presentations which the Scriptures give of the decision of the last day, not a single hint is dropped about limited and corrective punishment; yet no season could be so proper for that purpose. We might have expected that the Judge would exhort them to profit speedily by these necessary and wholesome correctives, that they might the sooner be restored to that happiness which he was so anxious they should enjoy. Divine judgments in this life, when designed to be corrective, have usually been accompanied with exhortations, promises, &c. But not a word of this sort is found in the final sentence of the supreme Judge. It is rather remarkable that Mr. W. has not examined any more of the threatenings perhaps he did not think it safe to venture far upon this dangerous ground. The threatenings which point out eternal punishment as the wages of sin, are brought forward, and defended, by Mr. Fuller in his letters to Mr. Vidler, to which I refer the reader.

We have just cause of complaint against the Universalists for representing us as imputing to the Almighty a bosom inflamed with rage, and boiling with vengeance, when he executes judgment on impenitent sinners. He assures us that he taketh no pleasure in the death of a sinner. It is no unusal sight to see an earthly judge, with tears in his eyes, pronouncing upon the criminal the sentence of condemnation. And if the human mind may be entirely free from rage and vengeance on such an occasion, why should we ascribe these wicked passions to the Deity? But such a representation serves their purpose.


On the Love of God.

As God is love," says Mr. Wright,

" he never can

"act towards any creature at any time, but from a "principle of love. If it be admitted that God once "loved all his creatures, how can it be proved that he "will ever cease to love them? If his love be himself, "if he be incorruptible, unchangeable, without variableness, or shadow of turning, how can he ever cease to "love those whom he once loved? To suppose the love "of God to any of his creatures may become extinct, "is, in effect, to suppose that so much of himself may


become extinct, for he is love; that he may so far vary "and change; which is impossible. The sins of men "cannot destroy the love of God to them, for the reasons "already alleged. Notwithstanding all their sins, he "hath given the fullest demonstration of the continuance "of his love to them, in giving his well-beloved Son "to die for them as sinners. If God will never cease to "love all his creatures, it follows, that he will never cease "to desire their happiness. And if what his soul desireth, should never take place, would it not prove "either a deficiency in his wisdom or in his power ?"*


The above reasoning will apply against the introduction of misery with exactly the same force as against its endless continuance. For if God never can act towards any creature, at any time, but from a principle of love; if this be accompanied with desires for their happiness ; and if his wisdom and his power are engaged to fulfil his desires; then it must necessarily follow, that it is impossible for any creature, at any time, to be unhappy. As this conclusion cannot be admitted, the premises must be given up.


* Hints on the Restoration, p. 4, 5.

« PreviousContinue »