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THE BURNING UP OF THE PROUD AND OF ALL THAT
MALACHI, iv. 1.
For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
This portion of prophetic testimony having been generally used to support the awful, terrific doctrine of future endless misery, and being now brought as an objection to a belief in the divine goodness to all men is the occasion of the request which has called our attention to this subject at this time.
As we have consented to discuss this text in this evening's discourse, a hope is entertained that the audience will feel such an interest in the investigation as will occasion a most devout and religious attention. If the Holy Ghost, by these words, intended to inform us that it is the divine determination not to humble the proud nor reform those who do wickedly, but to execute upon
them endless torture, no doubt it is necessary for us so to understand these and other words of divine inspiration; but if these words were designed to indicate the reduction of the proud to humility, and the reformation of those who do wickedly, it is of importance that we so understand them. Let us, therefore, carefully examine the text under consideration to see if its most natural meaning is, that all the proud and all that do wickedly are to be tormented eternally in a fire that shall burn as an oven. If we find that this is the true meaning of this passage, we must admit it as evidence of the truth of the terrific doctrine to which it is usually applied, and as a refutation of the
doctrine of universal salvation by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if the common use of this text be admitted, we must reasonably suppose, that this doctrine is the doctrine of the holy scriptures generally.
Let us look at the text. “For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven ; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and ihe day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” If this language is to be understood according to its most literal sense it means that all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be burnt up as stubble is consumed that is burned in an oven. There will remain of the proud and the wicked neither root nor branch. To use a simile, we will
that it is said of a tree, that the fire has consumed it, root and branch; would any reasonable person understand that the tree now exists ? No they would not. Now if the tree do not exist, it surely does not continue to burn. The conclusion then is this; if the proud and those who do wickedly are literally burnt up, they will cease to exist, and of course, they will cease to be tormented. It would be just as reasonable to contend, that John Rogers is now burning in the fire that consumed him, as to apply our text to prove the endless torments of the wicked.
We may ask why stubble should be used to represent the proud and them who do wickedly? Stubble is extremely combustible, it is consumed and gone almost as soon as it is set on fire.
It therefore shows that the proud and them who de wickedly will continue to burn but a short time, and this idea is fully expressed in the conclusion of our text; “it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, has said, as recorded in the 37th Psalm ;
For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.”. According to this divine prediction the wicked will not exist but a little while and of course cannot suffer but a little while; for they sure
We read ly cannot suffer any longer than they exist.
in the 10th of Proverbs as follows, “ As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more ; but the righteous is an everlasting foundation."
Not only does the text under consideration fully disprove the idea to which it is usually applied, but the sevcral passages already quoted equally disprove it. Το their united testimony we may add what candid, unprejudiced reason seems to suggest on the same subject.
It is granted by all who profess to believe in a Supreme Being, that he is a Being of infinite goodness. Now we know that it is not the nature of goodness to harm any creature, but to do good to all, From these plain self-evident facts we infer, that God will never administer
kind of affliction to any of his creatures, which is not designed for their benefit. If a creature be in a state of keen distress, from which there is no hope of recovery, to put an end to this creature's existence is a favor. That very fond and compassionate love, which renders the parent solicitous for the child's recovery froin pain and sickness, and impels to every possible exertion which promises the least relief, will, the moment all hope is gone, seek repose in the dissolution of nature.—Were it proposed to a kind parent, whose tender offspring is struggling with the distress of a most painful complaint, that though the child could not be cured, it might be preserved in its present
would this be chosen rather than that these pains should subside in the peaceful sleep of death? The evident fact is, that goodness is never willing to prolong pain and distress unless it is seen how this may prove beneficial to the subject. It therefore belongs to those who contend for the doctrine of endless punishment, to cast in their minds whether they can justify themselves in giving to the Father of our spirits a character, which for cruelty infinitely exceeds that of the most unfeeling tyrant which has ever oppressed mankind.
The faithful word of divine inspiration, as recorded in the 57th chapter of Isaiah informs us that God " will not contend forever, neither will he be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before him, and the souls
which he has made.” And by the same divine author ity we have it recorded in the 3d chapter of the Lamentations, that the “ Lord will not cast off forever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."
While these last quoted passages prove, beyond all contradiction, that God will not punish his creatures with an endless punishment, they as fully show that the design of punishment is not to annihilate the soul that God has made. The reason which God renders in the passage quoted from Isaiah, why he will not contend forever nor be always wroth is because the spirit would fail before him, and the soul which he has made.
We may now consider the following important question. (viz.) How is it possible that all the proud yea, and all that do wickedly should be burnt up root and branch, and yet be saved in the Lord Jesus with an everlasting salvation? And furthermore, how can the wicked be saved by the grace of God, if the words spoken by David be true, where he says, as before quoted ; “For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be ?"
If the wicked are not allowed to exist, how can they be saved:
Reply: Here we think is a proper place to bring in the scripture doctrine of regeneration or new birth, not with a design to treat it by way of explaining it, but by application. Jesus said to the Jews; “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do."--Now suppose any of these Jews were converted by the spirit of truth after our Saviour's ascension to glory, they thereby became the children of God. If so, they were no longer the children of the devil. If
of the children of the devil can by regenerating grace, become the children of God, then by the same grace all the children of the devil may become the children of God. Suppose this should ever be accomplished would not the predictions of the Prophets be fulfilled? Where are the wicked? There are none –Where is his place? As there are none
wicked so there is no place for the wicked. Where is the stubble ? the fire has passed over it--there is no stubble. -Look carefully, see if the root be not leftthe root is all consumed.-- Are the branches spared ? There is neither root nor branch left.
Now turn your eyes and behold the innumerable multitude of all nations on mount Zion. From whence came they? These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. They have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
The hearers will now ask if we are to explain the text under consideration in this way? Is it in reality a fact that this text which has been so often quoted to terrify us with the apprehensions of never ending burnings, does, in reality, mean the purification of all who do wickedly, and the total destruction of wickedness?
Reply: As we have already proved, that the text can neither be applied to the endless duration of punishment, nor yet to the annihilation of the proud and them that do wickedly, we may now proceed to inquire for its true application, by bringing it into connexion with other passages in particular where similar language is used, and with those generally which express the design and will of God concerning sinners. By a careful attention to this method, we shall be likely to avoid any application that would be in opposition to the revealed testimony.
"For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven.” What day is this? A little before in the preceding chapter, the Prophet uses the following words; “ Behold I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me ;
and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold he shall come saith the Lord of hosts. abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth ? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. And he shall set as a refiner and
But who may