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and eternal weight of glory.” Here the suffering of the Christian proves a glory, not only excessive in degree, but eternal in duration. Col. iii. 23, 24, “ And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men; knowing that, of the Lord, ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance.” Now we learn elsewhere, that this inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled and unfading. And yet this ever-during and unfading inheritance is declared to be the reward of those who labour faithfully for the Lord. And the passage already quoted from Matthew, represents the righteous as welcomed into the kingdom-“For I was hungry and ye gave me meat,” &c. Finally, the scriptures, in too many places to be at this time recited, represent the felicities of the glorified saints, in all their extent, as given in consequence of believing, loving and obeying God. The reward, it is acknowledged, is a glorious one; but Heaven in all its weight, and on all its duration, is a reward to faith and its fruits. This is by the divine constitution. And no doubt God sees a suitableness and a compatibility between the work and the reward. Not that the work and the reward, considered abstractedly from their relations in the divine system, bear any proportion to each other. But, taking in these relations, which none but God can see and comprehend, there is unquestionably a perfect fitness between the works of a believer and his eternal reward.
But how is it with the unbeliever? If the scriptures were indefinite respecting the extent of the criminality of sin, and of the punishment threatened, we should infer that since the reward of faith and its holy fruits, is clearly defined to be without end, so the reward of unbelief and its unholy fruits would likewise be endless. As the scriptures every where represent the two characters as opposed to each other, analogy would lead us to the conclusion, that there would be a like opposition in their final retributions. And this conclusion, from analogy, is strengthened by another consideration. Not only do the scriptures, all the way through, contrast the two characters, as being opposed to each other, but they also contrast, with equal clearness, the judgment and retribution that shall be awarded to each. “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him—Woe unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him.” “And many of them shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." “ And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” “And these (the wicked) shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” Indeed passages of scripture might be multiplied, in which, as in the foregoing, not only their characters, but also the retributions to each, are strongly contrasted. But, as we have seen, the reward of one character is without end. How probable then, that the punishment of the opposite character will be without end, especially when the same scriptures which represent these characters in direct opposition to each other, contrast in terms, equally strong and definite, the retributions that await each.
Again--still reasoning upon the supposition (which is the most that can, with any colour, be pretended) that the scriptures have not definitely marked the extent of the criminality of sin, as the duration of punishment, we should infer that this punishment would be eternal from another consideration. To indulge in unbelief and sin, is to reject the infinite reward held out to faith. So that the very act itself is a forfeiture of an infinite blessing. And what is the forfeiture of an infinite blessing but an infinite loss? And what is an infinite loss, in consequence of sin, but an infinite punishment for that sin ? If the scriptures represented this forfeiture as only for a limited time, and then it could be proved that the blessing would not be forfeited again, the question would of course be decided. But so far is this from being their sense, the language is such as seems to indicate a final forfeiture. While those that were ready went in to the wedding, the door was shut against such as were not ready. Though they asked for admittance, they were rejected; and no intimation given that they should afterward be received. While the faithful servant is welcomed into the joy of his Lord, the unprofitable servant is doomed to outer darkness; and no encouragement given that he should ever enter into the joy of his Lord.
These considerations, if there were no other, would at least make it probable, that the painful reward of the unbeliever would run parallel with the blessed reward of the believer. Demanding for these arguments all the attention and influence they deserve, we proceed to inquire into the nature of sinful works. And this, as far as we can determine it, will teach us the extent of the punishment. For this punishment is according to the works. Here, as elsewhere, the scriptures must be the principal foundation of our arguments. And by the light of this sacred guide, as we have seen already, there is nothing in the nature of man, that will prevent their works being followed with infinite consequences. The good works of the righteous have an infinite reward. Why not then the sins of the unrighteous?
(1) To neglect the offers of God, is criminal in proportion to the extent of the blessing proffered by God and rejected by the transgressor.
But the blessing proffered by God and rejected by the transgressor is infinite. Therefore, to neglect this blessing, is an act stamped with infinite turpitude.
To authorize this proposition, between the criminality of the act and the blessing slighted by that act, we have the authority of inspiration. An apostle says, Heb. ii. 3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?” Here the rule we contend for is recognized by the apostle ; who evidently speaks as if the impossibility of escaping was the more certain, because the salvation neglected was so great.
(2) The extent of the criminality of sin, is in proportion to the dignity of the character insulted.
This is a principle that is obvious to the common sense of all mankind, and is acknowledged by all civil governments. We have however higher authority for it than the common understanding of men, or the universally received principles of civil jurisprudence. The above quoted apostle says, Heb. x. 28, 29, “He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God—and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?" Here, to trample under foot the Son of God, and do despite to the Spirit of grace, as they were acts immediately against higher characters, were considered by the inspired apostle as meriting sorer punishment. Again, Chap. xii. 25, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh ; for if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more, shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from Heaven.” Nothing can be plainer than that the apostle in these passages, considers the sin to be great, in proportion to the dignity of the character sinned against.
But God is a character infinitely dignified. Therefore,
(3) It must be acknowledged, on all sides, that the violation of an obligation is criminal in proportion to the extent of that obligation. But man is under infinite obligations to God. There
To violate these obligations is a sin infinitely aggravated.
(4) The demerit of sin, is in proportion io its inherent malignity.
But the malignity of sin is unlimited, except by superior power. Therefore, Sin is of unlimited demerit.
That the demerit of sin is proportionate to its malignity, is a mere truism, which, it is presumed, none will deny. And none I believe can, with any show of reason, contend that the criminality of crimes is to be rated by the power of the perpetrators, or the time they were employed in committing them. The weakest subject may be, to all intenis and purposes, as guilty of treason, as the most powerful nobleman; and a man who accomplishes his murderous purposes in an hour, is as guilty as he who is engaged a number of days to accomplish his designs of murder. And he who is fully purposed in his heart to kill his neighbour, but is prevented by external circumstances or superior force, is as guilty as either. None then can with propriety contend, that the shortness of man's life, or weakness of his powers, or the impossibility of accomplishing his desires, detracts from the demerit VOL. VI.
of his crimes. And what are these crimes ? The Scriptures declare that men are enemies to God; that they are rebels against him; that they despise his character, and trample his authority under their feet, and set up other gods in his stead. Now is not this, to all intents and purposes of guilt, (notwithstanding power may be wanting,) to dethrone God, and give the supreme auibority to unbridled lust and lawless mis-rule? Who can measure the extent of guilt like this? It is high as heaven! It is deep as hell! And if unrestrained, its destructive effects would be as extensive as the government of God.
From the whole, then, it appears that the works of the wicked are stamped with infinite criminality. Therefore, if they are rewarded “ according to their works,” their punishment will be interminable.*
We have another view to take of this subject, which will lead us, if possible, to still clearer results. Having: examined the nature of the works, with a view to determine the extent of the punishment, we will now examine the nature of the punishment itself, as described in the declarations of the word of God.
The nature of the punishment is such, as to exclude all those means necessary to secure a holy character. 2.
The scriptures declare the gospel to be a system of salvation ; for lost and perishing man. But they every where represent this salvation as attainable only through certain means therein described. Such as the word read and preached; the prayers and conversation of the godly; the strivings of God's Spirit; the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ, and the like. But, from these means the transgressor is excluded by the very nature of his punishment. He will no longer enjoy the bible, for the earth and all things material will “ be burnt up.” The gospel will not be preached to him, for there will be none to preach it. The labourers in God's vineyard will have ceased from their labours, and will have entered into their rest. It would be as absurd as unscriptural, to suppose that those who have “fought the good fight. and finished their course," and have received their “ crown of righteousness," should still be sent into the regions of wretchedness and sin to preach the gospel to the damned. Neither will these miserable beings have the privilege of the example and conversation of the godly: for their “portion” is with “hypocrites and unbelievers," and with every one that “ loveth and maketh a lie." They will not have the Spirit of God to enlighten and reprove them, for his Spirit will not " always strive with man.” Moreover, their punishment is declared to be banishment into “outer darkness ;" from the “presence of God” and the glory of his
* It is not pretended, in any of these arguments, that sin is an act of infinite magnitude. This would be inconsistent with the limited faculties of man. But it is what may entail infinite consequences on the transgressor. See Merritt on the subject. Univer. Sal. Ref. p. 84, &c.
power." Christ will no longer be their mediator and intercessor; for, at the resurrection, Christ is the judge. The scriptures clearly designate Christ as the one appointed to judge the world. And can he be judge and advocate too? Or after having adjudged them to pain and woe, will he turn their advocate? And if he does for what will he intercede? That the extent of his judgment may not be executed upon them? Or will he intercede that they may not suffer any more than he decided they should? The former would be inconsistent, the latter unnecessary. For when divine justice is satisfied, it will not need the pleas of an advocate to induce it to withhold its hand. But this question seems to be decided by scripture. At the resurrection, Christ gives up the kingdom to his Father. See 1 Cor. xv. 24, 28.
Now, without a bible, without a preached gospel, without the prayers, conversation and examples of saints, without the Spirit of God to restrain, enlighten and reprove, without an advocate to intercede, how, I ask, are men ever to accept the gospel and be made holy? Again; the nature of this punishment excludes all those works to which the promise of heaven is made. These are, as has been proved, faith and its fruits. Nothing is more clearly revealed in the book of God than that faith is the medium through which a meetness for heaven is communicated to the soul. But what chance for faith in eternity?“ Now faith,” says the apostle to the Hebrews, “is the substance of things hoped for; and the evidence of things not seen." The certainty of sight and sense, is perfectly incompatible with faith. But in eternity that record which God has given of invisible things, and which he requires us to believę as necessary to salvation, will be known to be true, by open vision. Is he who would come to God here, commanded to “believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him?” There these truths will no longer be matters of faith, but certain knowledge. He that has been judged at God's bar, will know that he is; and he that has heard the righteous, in his presence, welcomed into everlasting habitations, will know that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Must he who would be saved, believe that Christ is the Redeemer and Saviour of the world? but in eternity, the sinner knows he is. For he has seen the righteous admitted to heaven for receiving him, and finds himself thrust down to hell for rejecting him. Is he called upon to believe in the Holy Spirit ? he now knows he is suffering "sorer punishment,” for doing “despite to that Spirit.” In short, every one must see, that at the judgment or after, it is impossible to exercise that faith, which we are here required to exercise in order to salvation. And as there is no opportunity for faith, so there is none for its fruits. How can there be fruits when there is nothing to produce them? Besides, it will be readily seen, that there can be no opportunity to fight the good fight of faith in hell.
suffering very one must hat faith, which as there is there be fruits