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on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality.”
We can easily discern the natural connexion between all the vices which are practised by men, and the infelicities which these vices introduce into society, and the unhappiness they occasion to those who practise them; but it is totally impossible to trace the connexion between these vices and a state of permanent misery in an immortal stat..
Secondly; as this opinion of a state of immortal happiness for the good works of men in this life, and a state of endless misery for their evil works while here is supposed to fall under the notice of those scriptures which teach us that God will render to every man according to his works, it seems proper that we look to see if we can find such a proportion between the virtues which are practised in this life and a state of immortal felicity, and between the vices committed here and a state of endless torment as will justify this doctrine. The moment this inquiry is proposed the absurdity of the doctrine appears; for there is a much nearer proportion between the labor of one hour and the wealth of the whole world as its reward,
be seen between all the good works which a man could perform during a long life, and a recompense of an immortal state of complete happiness. Nor is there so great a proportion between all the sins which one could possibly commit in this life and the recompense of a state of endless misery, as between the smallest offence ever committed on earth and a retaliation of the most severe and protracted tortures which could be inflicted in this mortal state. These statements are self-evident facts, which we know to be true as well as we know that a day is not as long as a yea or that one grain is not equal to a ton weight.
According to the scriptures, we are authorised to believe, that the blessings of the gospel in this life are far too great to be considered as being according to our orks. St. Paul says; 6. Who hath saved us,
and lled us with an holy calling, not according to our orks, but according to his own purpose and grace
which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Again the same author says; “ Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy
he saved us.” Now is the salvation obtained in this life by the grace of God is too great to be considered according to our works, there surely is not the shadow of propriety in supposing that a state of permanent felicity in the eternal world is according to our works in this. But the proportion between our good works in this world and a state of endless happiness in the next is as near as between our sins here and a state of endless misery hereafter.
Thirdly; this doctrine of endless rewards and punishments is involved in an insuperable difficulty for the want of the power to distinguish between the meet subjects for these respective rewards.
What will this doctrine do, for instance, with David, king of Israel? That he did evil, and that to a most heinous degree is evident from the faithful records of scripture. Now if they who in this life have done evil are to be raised into an immortal state of misery, David, king of Israel, will be thus raised to condemna tion. Will it be said that David became a good man, and did many good things after he committed the abominations which are recorded of him? This we are happy to acknowledge ; but what does this prove, only that David was like other men, and and sometimes did that which was right and sometimes that which was wrong? For another instance, where will the doctrine under consideration place St. Paul in the eternal state? That he did evil in this world the scriptures as fully prove as they prove any thing. But it will be said that this man was reformed and became a good man; this too we are happy to acknowledge, but what more does this prove than that St. Paul was like David, and like other men, a changeable creature ! who sometimes did right, at other times wrong? The fact is, as was fully shown in our lecture on the recompensing of the righteous and the wicked in the earth, all men are in some degree righteous and in some des gree wicked. And it follows that if all that do good
in this world are to be eternally happy hereafter, all mankind will be happy; and on the other hand, if all who do evil in this life are to be endlessly miserable in the next, all men will be thus miserable !
Fourthly; the doctrine under consideration is absurd in that it supposes that the good works and virtues of men in this imperfect state are more meritorious than the perfect and permanent virtue which will characterize the blessed in heaven; for if that immortal state of holiness and felicity is merited by the virtue imperfectly practised in this mortal state, there remains no merit in the virtues practised in the future world, nor any reward for that superior degree of righteous
And on the other hand, this doctrine involves another absurdity, in that it recompenses the sins of this life with a state of endless and positive misery, but reserves no punishment for the sins of which the souls of the miserable will be guilty in that state where they will sin without restraint. Why should imperfect righteousness merit an eternity of happiness, and yet perfect righteousness merit nothing? Why should the sins of this life be recompensed with a state of everlasting or eternal misery, and the entire sin of the eternal world go forever unpunished ?
Once more; this doctrine maintains that God will punish his rational offspring without mercy, without designing their reconciliation or profit. This
, of all the objections which we have to the doctrine under consideration is the greatest. This supposes that God possesses a worse disposition, and practises greater cruelty than the wicked possessor practice. All the cruelties of heathen idolatry are tender mercies, in comparison with the cruelty attributed to our heavenly Father by this doctrine. People are deceived by the names which superstition uses to identify this cruelty in God, but the name of a thing alters not its nature. Vindictive wrath, holy anger, retributive justice, are terms used to designate a property of the divine nature which, when examined impartially, and without a superstitious awe, is found to be worthy of no better name than unmerciful malevolence! so attribute such a quality or char
acter to God, we view as the vilest act that moral darkness has ever produced ; and we reject the sentiment with the deepest horror.
Let it be distinctly noticed here, that this argument does not lie between the doctrine of endless punishment, and no punishment for sin; we have all along in these lectures maintained that sin is punished, but we find that it is punished in the world where it is, and not in an inmortal state where it is not.
Having, as was proposed, suggested a few arguments against the doctrine for the support of which our text has been generally used, our next labor will be directed to bring the portion of scripture under consideration before the hearer in connexion with such other passages as relate to events which evidently belong to the present state of existence, but where language signifying a resurrection is used ; at the same time carefully comparing with them those passages which evidently relate to a resurrection into an immortal state, that it may be clearly understood that the latter and former classes of scripture cannot, with any propriety, be applied to the same event.
The arguments to which we have attended in this discourse, are designed to show that the text under consideration ought not to be applied in the usual way, by showing that the doctrine supported by it when so used is not true. The arguments now designed will go to show that the scriptures make use of words signifying a resurrection, in a figurative sense, when nothing beyond this mortal state is intended, that the passage under consideration is of this description; and that it is proved to be so by comparing it with other passages which evidently have their application in time, and also by comparing it with passages which speak of a resurrection into an immortal state, by observing the difference there is between the two classes.
That our text evidently belongs to that class of scriptures which speak of a spiritual resurrection, or of a resurrection which has no allusion to a future state of being may be seen by attending to the context which reads as follows; " Verily, verily, I say un
you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." Here it is perfectly plain that the death from which the believers had passed was of a moral, and not a literal kind; and it is perfectly plain also that the life into which they had already entered was of a spiritual nature, which believers enjoy by the means of believing in the word of Jesus in the present tense. And it is furthermore evident that the condemnation mentioned in the passage already quoted is a condemnation which is the consequence of unbelief in the present life, and is the same as is signified by the following words of Jesus : “ He that believeth not is condemned already.” The next words to those quoted from our context are the following: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself, and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” It is abundantly evident that the Saviour still continued to speak of the dead in trespasses and sins, of their hearing and believing his word, and of the spiritual life which faith in the gospel wrought in them." And it is also evident that his authority, which he here mentions, to execute judgment, administers that condemnation into which the unbeliever is brought.
Our text follows the words last quoted; “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which, all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 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.” Now as it is acknowledged by all that Jesus was speaking figuratively in the context, until he came to the words of our text, it seems entirely unwarranted to make him now, all of a sudden, speak of a literal resurrection. It is altogether more reasonable to suppose, that as he meant the dead in a moral or spiritual sense, by the dead who