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I know that in his pamphlet, Mr. W. speaks of future punishment as a motive against sin; but it is also certain, that in the above paragraph he disavows it; and it is no part of my business to reconcile his contradictions. Should he, however, allow that future punishment supplies us with a motive against sin, he must recollect, that the strength of the motive will be in proportion to the duration of the punishment; this motive will therefore be infinitely stronger when urged by those who hold the doctrine of endless punishment, than when urged by the advocates for its limited duration.
It is a question of vast importance, and which I fear ministers in general do not sufficiently attend to, whether the love or the terror of God operates most powerfully at first on the minds of sinners? If they were governed by their reason, there would be no necessity to preach the terror of the Lord to them; because as soon as they perceived that their interest and duty are united, they would begin to promote the one by the practice of the other; but he must have a very superficial acquaintance with men, who does not know, that, in general, they are governed by their corrupt passions and appetites, in opposition to the dictates of reason and religion. The privileges of religion will never operate as a motive on corrupt minds to practise its duties. Tell them about the comforts of the Spirit; the sweets of communion with God in religious exercises; and the happiness of heaven, as consisting in the vision of God, and the society of saints, angels, and Jesus Christ; in investigating the works and ways of God; singing his praises; in loving and serving him for evermore; I say, tell them of these things; but, since they have no dispositions to enjoy them, they will express no desires after them. You might as well cast pearls before swine. The temper of
their minds must be changed, before such motives will have any influence upon them.*
A minister can have no hope of success till he has made sinners sensible of their state. The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Jesus Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Let him tell them of their danger, that upon their present conduct depends their everlasting condition, that if they die in sin they will be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth, in unquenchable fire; that they have no security against the arrest of death; that hell may now be moved from beneath to meet them at their coming; let him, I say, sound these awful truths in their ears with the energy of a man alarmed at their dreadful condition, and some at least, will begin to see their danger, flee from the wrath to come, and inquire what they must do to be saved. Then is the time to unfold the love of God to
* "Since the pleasure of any thing results from the agreement between "it and the desire, what satisfaction can spiritual enjoyments give unto a "carnal mind? Alas! what delight would it be to the swine to be wrapt "in fine linen, and laid in odours? His senses are not gratified by any "such delicacies; nor would he feel any thing besides the torment of "being withheld from the mire. And as little complacency would a "brutish soul find in those pure and refined pleasures, which can only "upbraid, not satisfy him." Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety, chap. i.
+"God lays hold on that powerful principle of self-preservation within "us to oblige us by any means, to be good, wise, and happy; and the "love of goodness, wisdom, and happiness, cannot prevail, (as they cannot
possibly in the nature of things at first, over habitual sinners) to drive "us into that good he intends for us, and compel us to come in, through "fear of the dread punishments of the contrary practices. Therefore he "has in his great wisdom and goodness, positively acquainted us with "those endless unendurable torments to rouse us out of that desperate "inconsideration and lethargo, infatuation and insensibility, which are "incident to a habit of sinning. That since the impenitent sinner must "one day suffer them in reality, he might every day think of, and suffer "them in his thoughts, till the pain thereof changes the course of his life ;
them. It will inspire them with hope and devotion. In answer to prayer they will obtain pardoning mercy; a consciousness of that mercy will fill them with love, and then every passion, appetite, and power of their minds, will unite to impel them forward in the paths of piety and virtue.
I will now inquire whether the Scriptures favour the idea that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of religion. Jesus Christ addressed the fears of daring sinners : "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye 66 escape the damnation of hell ?" Paul alarmed the fears of Felix. While “he reasoned on righteousness, "temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled ;" and though the apostle did not succeed in his design, yet no one will question the propriety of the method which he adopted in order to attain it. The three thousand that were converted on the day of Pentecost, were moved with fear: "They were pricked in their hearts, "and said, Men, and brethren, what shall we do?" The Philippian jailer "came trembling, and fell down "before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, what must I do "to be saved?" Examples might be multiplied, but it is unnecessary. It is evident that religion generally begins with fear. And should a minister neglect to address this passion, by leaving out the terror of the Lord, he may preach the love of God, the joys of heaven, moral virtue, or what he pleases, till his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth, without converting one sinner from the error of his ways.
"and then in a few days, he will surely turn and repent, and precipitate him"self into virtue and happiness, taking sanctuary in the fear of God, in order "to rejoice in the arms of his favour." Cure of Deism, vol. i. p. 319, 320. 3d. edit.
On the Knowledge of God.
ON the supposition that some will be wretched for ever, Mr. Weaver remarks, "Jesus Christ could not in"tend to save such when he made them, because at "that very time, he knew they would not be saved. "Now if he knew before he made them that they would "not be saved, did he not make such for misery? If so, "is he not the author of evil? And let such as maintain "eternal misery get clear of it if they can."*
This reasoning will equally apply against limited punishment. "Jesus Christ could not intend to prevent such from being punished for a season when he made them, because at that very time, he knew they would be punished for a season. Now if he knew before he made them, that they would be thus punished, did he not make such for misery? If so, is he not the author of evil? And let such as maintain limited misery, get clear of it if they can."
It is suitable to our nature and the relations which subsist betwixt God and us, that he should exhort us to repentance, and promise us salvation on the terms of the Gospel. And when he does this, to call in question the sincerity of his intention, and to charge him with being the author of sin, because he knew beforehand that some would not repent and receive the Gospel, is not so much to disprove endless punishment, as to deny moral liberty to man, and to lead us to Atheism, by representing the state of the moral world as inconsistent with the Divine perfections. Dr. Clarke has well observed, "Whatever is in itself, and in the nature of things, reason
* Free Thoughts, Preface, p. 25. 2d. edit.
"able to be done, it is fit should actually be done; and "it is never the more nor the less reasonable, for things "being known or not known beforehand. The reason "of God's sending exhortations to wicked men, is not "that he himself is ignorant what they will do, but that upon their own account it is reasonable they should be "so exhorted; and if the thing be reasonable in itself, it "cannot cease to be so, upon the account of fore"knowledge.*
It is allowed Jesus Christ knew that some would be miserable. Mr. W. infers from this, that he made them for misery; and from this inference he concludes again, that Jesus Christ is the author of evil. Mr. W.'s way of drawing inferences goes to prove, as fully upon his own system as upon ours, that man is a necessary agent, and that God is the author of all his actions, both good and bad. Thus, God knew man would sin: God, therefore, made man for sia: God, therefore, is the author of sin. But things may be foreknown without being predestinated. I foreknow that the sun will rise in the morning, and that both the sun and moon will be eclipsed a certain number of times the ensuing year: but I am not vain enough to think, that my knowledge is, in any sense, the cause of these events taking place.†
The following argument, in reference to one of Mr. Benson's sermons on the day of judgment, is borrowed by Mr. Weaver from Petitpierre on Divine Goodness, Can we deny that the Divine mind was perfectly ac
*Clarke's Sermon's Vol. i. p. 166, 167.
+"God foresees, or rather sees the actions of free agents, because they "will be, not that they will be, because he foresees them. If I see an ob"ject in a certain place, the veracity of my senses supposed, it is certain "that object there but yet it cannot be said, it is there because I see it "there, or that my seeing it there, is the cause of its being there; but because "it is there, therefore I see it there. It is the object that determines my "sensation: and so in the other case, it is a future choice of a free agent, "that determines the prescience, which yet may be infallibly true." Religion of Nature Delineated, p. 102.