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There has been and continues to be much dispute and opposition of opinion among divines, l'especting God's raising up Pharaoh and hardening his heart for eternal destruction. Some insist that the Almighty, by a sovereign act, created Pharaoh for everlasting misery in the eternal world, and that he hardened his beart on purpose that he might commit sin enough to justify his endless condemnation. Others oppose such notions, and charge them with making God the author of sin. But they contend that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, was the sole author of his own sins and is justly sentenced to everlasting perdition together with all his host for disobedience in refusing to let the children of Israel go peaceably out of Egypt. Thus there is one darling point, in which, after they have opposed one another with all the arguments which they can possibly, bring to bear on the subject in dispute, and after they have reciprocally censured each otber for holding dangerous errors, they meet, and become perfectly quiet in the belief, that Pharaoh and his host are in the torments of hell, froin which there is no deliverance.
That which these opposing divines dispute about is not embraced in the present object, to which this research is directed, but the point in which they both meet, and concerning which they entertain no doubt, is the question now to be settled.
But how are we to obtain our object? The tradition of the church says, that Pharaoh and his host are in a state of endless torment. This tradition is now called in question. · But how are we to bring this case to a fair decision? The following method is proposed. Let those divines, who hold and endeavour to maintain that Pharaoh and bis host are in a state of endless misery pursuant to an eternal decree of God, and those who deny that tenet, but maintain that Pharaoh and his host are in this state of torinent in consequence of abusing their moral agency drop their dispute, until they shall have
proved that Pharaoh and his host are actually in such a state. And then let them all agree to believe nothing on this subject inore than the divine testimony proves.
When this method is agreed to, the whole question is settled; for the fact is, there is no intimation in the scripture account that Pharaoh or any of bis host were sufferers after they were drowned in the red sea.
It is a most humiliating thought, that our learned doctors of the church should so long maintain this phantom of their imagination, to the dishonor of God, and to the discomfort of every tender sensibility of the human beart.
But the day of trial and retribution is come ; and this folly must be recompensed. It is true, they may turn away their faces, they may wish to avoid meeting these glaring absurdities; but the spirit of investigation, which is now manifesting itself, will never suffer this matter to rest, until such barbarity of sentiment is totally rescinded.
The hearer is cautioned against the supposition that the preacher takes the least satisfaction in giving those, who maintain the errors which he is endeavouring to expose, the smallest sensation that may disturb their comfort, and against harbouring sueh a reprehensible disposition. But he may be assured, that no respect due to fellow mortals, can justly prevent us from bringing their false notions to the light.
The next subject, which we propose to notice is that of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. We have an account in the 16th of Numbers of the destruction of these persons, their families, and of all that appertained to them, by being swallowed up in the earth. This is another instance of divine providence, which, those who believe and preach the doctrine of endless, unmerciful punishment advert to as a certain proof of its reality. But how can the account which we have of the destruction of those
people prove what it says nothing of nor even implies? If one should say, that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram with their families went immediately, after they were swallowed up in the earth, to some one of the planets, where they have all lived ever since in a state of affluence, who could prove to the contrary ? There is nothing in the account which we have of those people that intimates what became of them after they were swallowed up in the earth.
If we could be satisfied with the account which we have of this matter, there is no difficulty in understanding why these people were swallowed up, and the benefit thereby intended to the congregation.
As these men rose up to oppose Moses and Aaron, and to excite the people to rebellion, Moses told the congregation; “Hereby shall ye know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me; but if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertaineth unto them, and they go down quickly into the pit, then ye shall understand that those men have provoked the Lord.”
Accord ing to these words the event took place, and the rebellion was ended.
The question is now put to the candor of this christian audience, what is there in this account that authorises the belief that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram are now in a state of endless torment? Moses did not intimate to the congregation that these people would be tormented after death; and in fact if he had told them so, they could not have been witnesses of the truth of his testimony; nor could any other people since have known whether Moses spoke the truth or not. We have no account either sacred or prophane, that gives any information of the situation of this company after the earth swallowed
If they have been in a state of torinent ever since, that torment has been no terror to the
living, because the living have known nothing of it. And it is certain, that those who advert to the case. of Korah and his company, as an instance proving the doctrine of a future state of misery, do this thing on no higher authority than human tradition.
The destruction of the old world by the flood, is another event, on which, our preachers of punishment in a future state, depend for proof of their terrific doctrine. And such is the habit of thinking, with pious and religious people, on this subject, that whenever they think of the drowning of the inhabitants of the old world, their minds are carried directly to the idea of the awful state of suffering which those people have been in ever since. They never presume to call the matter in question. They never think of asking whether there be any proof of this horrible notion. They take it altogether on tradition, without taking the trouble ever to read the account to see what is said respecting it. Yet it is worthy of notice, that these very people, thus led away with superstition, will wonder, and even laugh at the absurd superstitions of other people, in matters of no consequence in comparison with this which we have now called in question. For instance, what a world of contention there has been between Roman catholics and Protestants, on the question respecting transubstantiation and what is termed, the real presence. Protestants will even ridicule the superstition of their opponents on this subject; but after all, have they a thousandth part of the evidence to prove that the inhabitants of ihe old world are in a state of endless misery, as the catholics have to prove the real presence? No, surely they have not. Wben Jesus took bread and brake it, he said ; “this is my body.” Protestants say, that Jesus spake figuratively; but the catholics deny this, and say, he meant as he said. Now what we ask is this, is there in all the account which we have of the destruction of the old world, any thing so much in favour of the misery of the people after
death, as the words of Christ are in favour of the catholic sentiment? The fact is, there is nothing said on the subject. There is no intimation that the inhabitants who were drowned by the flood were made miserable at all in a future state. Thus Protestants as well as the old pharisees “strain at a goat, and swallow a camel.”
In the last place, we will notice the case of Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Because Jesus said ; “ It had been good for that man if he had not been born,” it is now contended that Judas is in a state of misery from which there is no deliverance. But did the divine teacher say any thing on the subject of the state of existence that Judas would be in after this life? No he surely did not. How then can his words prove what they say nothing of?
Let us ask the following question; Is it possible to prove that Judas now has any existence, from the words of Jesus, which we have quoted? “ It had been good for that man if he had not been born.' Do those words prove that Judas is now in existence? Surely no one will even pretend this. But it is beyond all scruple, that a sentence which does not prove that a man exists at a given time, cannot prove that he is miserable or happy at the same given time.
But it is said, if Judas exists, and if he should be made happy in the eternal world, the words of Jesus are not true, because the existence of Judas will be a blessing. This we pronounce loose and fallacious reasoning, such as is never used to prove any thing, except the doctrine of a future or endless misery. In all matters appertaining to men's interest, in this life, better proof is required than what is here relied on to prove a state of endless torment. We even venture to say, that there could not be found a jury of twelve men who would award property to the amount of ten dollars to a man, who could not prove his claim to it by evidence more to his case. We may suppose that Jesus meant, that it would