Page images

ing them. The cause must be determined by evidence. And according to the evidence arising from the constitution of nature, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, there appears to me no reason to expect either of these things. Particularly with regard to the text before us; he that can infer from these words of our Saviour, either utter destruction of being, or restoration to happiness, is endued with a faculty of inferring, which I have no desire to be master of. Because the words certainly may point out (and naturally seem to do so, rather than otherwise) a third state, distinct from the other two; and more agreeable than either of them to other testimonies of scripture.

Num. XXIV.

Mark iii. 29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. See above, Num. XI.

If he hath never forgiveness, as it appears from Matt. xii. 31, 32. he hath not, his damnation must be eternal. Consequently the word aivos, and the phrase eis Tov alava, here denote eternity. Whether this eternal damnation will be eternal destruction of being, or something else, we must learn from other texts.

Num. XXV.

Mark iv. 25. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

He that hath, (viz. any increase or improvement,) to him shall more be given; and he that hath not made any such use and improvement of his original moral endowments, from him, by the appointment

of God, even in the natural consequences of things, they shall be taken away. This is a truth, which in part, and as far as this world is concerned, lies open to our experience. The seeds of virtue, if not cultivated, decay; the moral sense, and, in short, the whole sum of our moral powers, if not improved, are impaired; vicious acts gradually weaken virtuous principles and sentiments, and inveterate vicious habits almost wholly destroy them. This we see; and therefore, if agreeably to our Lord's declarations relating to this matter, such neglect and abuse of our moral powers should at last be punished with an entire deprivation of them; it is no more than the complete execution of that plan of Providence in another state, which we see begun, and imperfectly carried on in the present. Compare Num. XXI.

Num. XXVI.

Mark ix. 43-48. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

It is hard to say how any doctrine can be taught more plainly, than the eternity of future punishment is, in this passage. Suppose it to be true, and that it was our Lord's design to teach it; how could he have done it in plainer words, or in a more empha

tical manner? He seems here to explain his own meaning of the other phrases, which he sometimes uses upon this subject. If scruples be raised, however unjustly, about the import and extent of the word alános, here nothing depends upon that term. It rather appears from hence, that that term, as applied to this subject, must be understood in its full extent since it is here repeated, time after time, that the fire is unquenchable, and the worm never dies. And it is our Lord's manifest design, to warn his disciples to part with any thing in this world, however useful or dear to them, rather than expose themselves to the danger of this state, because it is irretrievable. One would not, methinks, set aside the evidence of so plain and so strong a testimony of scripture, upon so interesting and so important a subject, without something of very considerable weight on the other side to overbalance it. Let us see then what engine Mr. W. employs to remove it; and whether he does it by fair strength, or only by artifice and evasion. He allows, in the first place, that "this affecting description of the torments of "hell looks at first sight liker their proper eternity, than almost any other in the whole Bible. "We have had the same discourse of our Saviour's,



indeed, already from St. Matthew xviii. 8, 9. (see "Num. XIV.) but not set down so distinctly, nor "under quite so terrible a representation as here.


However, it being directly taken from the last "verse of Isaiah, where it evidently belongs to a "judgment upon some wicked men in this life only, "which is very far from eternal; and belonging to "dead carcasses, which can never be eternal ages in

d P. 41.


"consuming, either by worms or fire; and being joined either with the sight, or abhorrence of those "carcasses by all flesh upon this earth only, it is "most evident, that it does no way infer the proper eternity of such punishment, but rather the con"trary."


The great engine, we see, that is played against us, is the last verse of Isaiah, which is this; And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. Now supposing here every thing that Mr. W. supposes, that this judgment, and this consumption of the dead carcasses, is in this life only; and that this sight and abhorrence of them, is upon this earth only; then indeed it is most evident, that we can no way infer the proper eternity of this punishment, which Isaiah speaks of: but it is so far from being most evident, that it is not evident at all, that therefore we cannot infer the proper eternity of the punishment which our Saviour describes in this passage of St. Mark's Gospel. For see how the argument will run; our Saviour, in describing the punishment of the wicked in hell, has taken some images and expressions from the last verse of Isaiah: but Isaiah meant to describe by those images and expressions only a temporal punishment, or a judgment executed upon this earth only; therefore we cannot infer from our Saviour's description of the punishment in hell, the proper eternity of such punishment. No; what should hinder us? Are the words capable of denoting a proper eternity, when the subject will bear, and the occasion and context

eternity; and this too without any caution against taking them in this extensive sense; without any intimation, that he desired to be understood cum grano salis? I know but one reason of this conduct, that any consistent Christian can give; and that I need not mention. Well then;

If the word alwvior, in the text before us, denote the same duration, as applied both to the punishment of the wicked, and the life of the righteous; and if that duration cannot be only long or lasting duration, but duration properly everlasting; then I have gained my point, that, according to all appearances upon the face of this remarkable passage, the wicked will neither be utterly destroyed in hell, nor delivered out of it; but exist for ever, subject to, and sensible of that everlasting punishment, into which they are sentenced to depart at the day of judgment.

Though I have been, perhaps, too prolix already upon this article, and led into some repetition by repeated objections; (see Num. XIV.) yet I shall not only hope for pardon, but also for a little more indulgence, while I attend Mr. W. a moment or two longer.

The moderns, he complains, "have weakly un"derstood a single air, or age, to be of equal dura"tion with alaves, or even aives Tav aiwvav, with ages, or "even ages of ages, themselves :" whereas he would have alwv, rendered an age; and alves, ages; and aiaves Twν aiwvwv, ages of ages; " as they properly sig

y P. 39. compared with p. 23. These phrases seem to me to be used promiscuously, as any equivalent phrases may be. Doxologies (which Mr. W. mentions p. 61.) generally run in a full and lofty style, as it is natural to expect they should do. But there is no invariable rule for them; as will appear by what follows:

« PreviousContinue »