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POPULAR DEBATE.—No. V.
IS THE NOTION OF A GENERAL JUDGMENT AFTER DEATH
AGREEABLE TO THE SCRIPTURES AND REASON?
ARGUMENT IN THE AFFIRMATIVE.
Of all the heresies that have infested the Christian church, universalism is at once the most audacious and the most alarming ; it lays its destructive axe at the root of opinions which have ever, by general suffrage, been regarded as vital, and fundamental, in christian faith : amongst these it is doubtful if any one is more venerated, for its antiquity, and general prevalence in the world, than that which is involved in the question before us. Will there be a judgment after death ? Say no-decide this momentous inquiry in the negative, and you will be secure of a hearty vote of thanks froin the irreligious and the abandoned of all nations, by whom, we may be sure, this doctrine is but little relished. Say no, and the bible may very well be dispensed with: for its main business, as it seems to me, is to prepare men against that dreadful assize at which all our actions in life must undergo the severest scrutiny. Ah! in reference to this, how many a dying wretch has disclosed the secrets of a life of crime, which had otherwise gone down with him into the oblivion of the grave! And how many an one at the same awful juncture, has relinquished his grasp upon hoards, which had been accumulated by fraud and oppressive exactions! Well doth the poet call this the
“Great day, for which all other days were made,
Great day of dread, decision, and despair.
In heaven." Reason clearly suggests the necessity for a judgment of men afte. this life : when we observe the present dispensations of providence, we perceive that they take place indifferently in regard to the righteous and the wicked ; a suitable distinction is not now
maintained between these opposite classes : hence a future dis pensation is obviously necessary in order to remedy the irregulari ties of the present. God must vindicate the justice of his gov ernment—he must display his infinite aversion to sin, and his approval of virtue—and this he must do before assembled worlds. By confining our attention to the events of time, we should often be tempted to call the justice of God into question : the cruel, and the rapacious, are allowed to trample under foot and despoil the meek and the upright: the poor man finds in the law but a weak defence against the rich oppressor ; the innocent are often subject to the full rigors of legal vengeance, whilst the guilty are suffered to escape with impunity. Who can estimate the sum of suffering caused by such men as Charles XII. of Sweden, Cromwell, and Napoleon? How could Pizarro, and Cortes, be adequately punished in life, for the prodigies of cruelty which they perpetrated in Mexico, and Peru ? When Jehovah looked down from his throne in heaven upon the unhappy Montezuma, expiring on heated plates of iron : marked he not for deep damnation the miscreant who had caused this suffering ? A single mandate, from a single tyrant, has often whelmed millions of hearts in anguish; think of the horrors inflicted within the limits of British-East-India (if Burke, and Sheridan, may be trusted) by the tyranny of Warren Hastings ! " I'll swear,” (said an unhappy princess, whose husband had been perfidiously murdered by that tyrant,) “if Hastings is not damned, his God is a black accomplice in his crimes !” It would indeed seem so, if the unjust oppressions of time are not to be avenged in eternity.
When we look through the scriptures we find them to contain, 1st: numerous allusions to a certain set time, denominated “ the day of judgment;" these allusions are an indirect proof of the doctrine under examination. 2ndly, we find direct proofs to the same effect in particular descriptions of that day.
“ And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than that city.” (Mat. x. 14, 15.) “ Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell : for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” (Mat. xi. 20—24.) 66 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Pet. ii. 9.) “ And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6.) These are the principal among the indirect proofs of a day of general judgment: you will observe that it is alluded to as a fixed and definite period—not as a day; but as the day.—Sometimes it is denominated “ that day," “ the great day,” &c.
Again, there are passages in which mention is made of "the judgment seat of Christ,” and of our having to stand before, and to give an account thereat. (Rom. xiv. 10.-2 Cor. v. 10.)
The accounts of our Lord's second coming I shall not adduce in this argument, although they have been thought to belong to the same subject, but they have been already subjected to the alembic of my opponent's sophistry, and they turned out to mean no such thing. I pass them, then, and go to the direct evidences.
“ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent; Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts xvii. 30, 31.) Here is the doctrine fully asserted : Christ, the judge the world, the party—and an appointed day, the time : all clearly and distinctly revealed.
Next see, 2 Peter iii. : “ Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished : Bnt the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved
anto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,
a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness: Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
.” (6_13.) Here is a circumstantial account of an awful event, or rather train of events. I hope my opponent will not attempt to spiritualise it, and reduce it to a nonentity.
Pass we now to 2 Thes. i: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you ; And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (6-10.) Could a general judgment, and one too, which shall decide the fates of the parties for eternity, be more decisively revealed than it here is ? Christ descends he descends from heaven-he descends in flames—he descends to avenge hiinself upon the enemies of his gospel-and that vengeance, what is it? Destruction, total, perpetual, irremediable.
I will adduce two other testimonies, which I confess to be highly figurative, but which, nevertheless, without doubt, refer to the same stupendous transactions: the first is in Daniel vii. "I bebeld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did
sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool : his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him : the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” (9, 10.) The other is in
“ And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away ; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them : and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell was cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (11-15.) These passages are marked with much sublimity of thought, and grandeur of imagery; but as they are dark and enigmatical, I do not lean upon them with a strong reliance.
That Paul taught the doctrine of a judgment after death is manifest: we find it distinctly asserted in his letter to the Hebrews. " It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” (Heb. ix. 27.) And we are informed in the book of Acts, that
as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.” (Acts xxiv. 25.)
I am curious to know how my opponent will attempt to fritter away all this testimony: not only how he will meet the argument from the scripture, but also from the reason and necessity of things. There must be a judgment after death-all nations have believed in it, and, as already remarked, it is imperatively called for by the inequalities in the present dispensations of providence: evil men look forward to it with fear and trembling; but the hteous most earnestly desire its coming : it will be to them a day of deliverance, of vindication, and of recompense for all their sufferings and trials in time. They shall also see their desire upon their persecutors, and shall have no longer occasion to exclaim with the souls of the raartyrs, as described in Revelation,