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DIVINE GOODNESS IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE

SODOMITES AND OTHER SINNERS.

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The spirit of divine truth, addressing Jerusalem by the prophet, informed her that she was more corrupted in her ways than her sisters, Samaria and her daughters, or Sodom and her daughters. The words of the prophet are these; “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness, was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hands of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and coinmitted abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

The destruction of the inhabitants of Sodom is the subject of our text, and that to which the most cautious attention of this christian audience is now most earnestly solicited.

By those who believe and preach the “heart-chilling doctrine of endless tornient, the destruction of Sodom is constantly adverted to as an evident proof of this tenet, and an instance of its positive reality.

Now as it is one of the objects of this course of lectures, to disprove the doctrine here mentioned, and to show, that the divine testimony which its advocates apply as proof of this tenet gives it no support, it is thought expedient to show that we have no evidence to believe that the Sodomites are an instance of an

sofer

endless state of misery. And as several other instances of the destruction of the wicked are generally used for the same end as this of the destruction of Sodom, notice will be taken of a number of them in the present discourse, in a way to show that they afford no evidence in support of the doctrine, in favor of which they are perpetually employed by our terrific preach

ers.

The first question which we shall attempt to examine is, whether the scriptures, which speak of the destruction of Sodom, give any account of the endless misery of those people who died in that destruction?

We are informed in the 18th and 19th chapters of Genesis, that, on account of the grievous sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, “ the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”

This is the account which we have in Genesis of the destruction of the Sodomites. But we find no mention made of their being consigned to a state of torment after their temporal destruction.

Here let us bring our subject into the light by the following queries.

1. Of the two events, the temporal destruction of the Sodomites and their being consigned to a state of unspeakable torment in the invisible and eternal world, which is the greatest? Every one will acknowledge at once, that the last mentioned of these events is in. finitely greater than the first. Indeed, those who believe and hold forth the idea of the endless misery of the wicked hereafter, always inform us, that all the sufferings of this mortal state are nothing compared with the sufferings of the miserable in the eternal world.

2. Why, allowing the common opinion of the miserable state of the Sodomites in the invisible world, is there a particular account given of their temporal destruction, and yet not a word about this everlasting torment in the future state, which is a subject infinite

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ly greater ? To illustrate the nature of this question, hyre we will suppose, that we have an account in our newspapers of a fire in the city of Philadelphia that burnt several ware-houses and consumed considerable property. This account falls into the hands of our chris

the b tian preachers, and they come forward in public and state a most lamentable account of the total destruction of the city of Philadelphia by fire. They set forth, in the most moving language the awful sufferings of the wretched inhabitants of that city, not one of

File? which were able to make their escape from the devouring flames! They even go so far as to inform us of certain manifestations of the tender sympathies of husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters in the last sad moments of their dreadful destruction.

After the peace of the whole town should be thus trifled with for some time, and all our hearts had been

wrung

with the keenest sorrow for the astonishing sufferings of our fellow mortals, some of us should ask our preachers how they were informed of the sorrowful news of the destruction of the inhabitants of Philadelphia ?-They in a very careless indifferent manner, after a few civilities, inform us that we have had the account in the public papers; and ask us if

Wem we have not seen the account of the burning of those ware-houses and all the goods there were in them?

as he What should we think in such a case ? Should we not allow ourselves to query whether these good teachers had not made some mistake? or exaggerated in a most unwarranted degree the account given in the papers

s? You will all agree that no excuse could possibly palliate for such a breach of our peace, except it could be proved that our teachers, who had thus troubled our souls, were actuated by a delirium. But my friends, even this comparison falls infinitely short of the subject under consideration. There is not so great a disproportion between the supposed account of the fire in Philadelphia, and the exaggeration of this account, which we have supposed, as there is between the account recorded in Genesis of the destruction of the Sodonites, and the exaggerations by which thou

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sands have been led to believe that those who were there destroyed, were consigned to a state of interminable misery. The question before you is like this; Would the public prints notice, in a particular manner, the burning of a few ware-houses in the city of Philadelphia, but say nothing of the burning of the whole city, inhabitants and all ?

3. As it is acknowledged by all, who reason well on the relation between testimony and facts, and the legitimate powers of the former to establish the latter, that extraordinary and naturally incredible events require a strength of testimony and a clearness of evidence which correspond with the extraordinary character of what is to be proved, is it not our indispensable duly, and what we owe to ourselves and to the cause of truth, to ask our divines, who insist on the endless misery of the Sodomites, to produce evidence of this fact, the force and clearness of which are equal to the extraordinary character of this supposed fact?

That this supposed fact is naturally incredible appears most evident by comparing it with the manifest character of the divine Being. God is a being of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness.

We may suppose, that if God were infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful, but entirely destitute of goodness, he might contrive a scheme of infinite cruelty, and carry

the same into effect; but if he possess as much goodness as he does wisdom and power, it is palpably absurd to believe that he is the author of any being to whom he is not good ; and it is equally ab surd to say that God is good to the Sodomites if they are consigned to a state of infinite misery.

That our heavenly Father was good and bountiful to the inhabitants of Sodom in their mortal state is evident from our context, in which we are informed of the idleness of the people, their fulness of bread, and their criminal neglect of the poor and needy. These accusations fully show that they were guilty of abusing the goodness of divine Providence, by which it is clear that God was good to them. Now as it cannot be denied that our heavenly Father was good and

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bountiful to the inhabitants of Sodom in their mortal state, is it consistent for us to believe that he is not good to them in the eternal world, if he there continues their existence ? Where is the evidence that he, who alone can create, and preserve the existence of rational beings, ever does this to the dan age of his creatures ?

The plain truth is this ; in room of having such clear and positive evidence in support of this common notion of the endless misery of the inhabitants of Sodom, as reason would require, there is not the most distant hint of any such thing, in the account recorded in Genesis.

There is a passage in the epistle of Jude, which speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah as follows; " Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” This passage is frequently cited to prove that the eternal state of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah is miserable. Let us examine the passage and see if it afford any such conclusion. The words, "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," are supposed to support the opinion in dispute. In order to show that these words have no such meaning, we will notice two passages where St. Paul uses the words, “set forth. See Romans iïi. 25. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." 1. Cor. iv. 9. “ For I think that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death : for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and unto men.” In both these passages, the words set forth" evidently mean a most open and clear manifestation of that which was " set forth.” But who will pretend that the eternal torments of the Sodomites, in the burning lake of the invisible world, are set forth for an exam

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