Page images

The conduct imputed-to Zeleucus may have been well enough on his part, but would it be suitable to the wisdom--the justice the benevolence, of the legislator of heaven and earth? In the statute-book of his dominion, there surely exists no law, the

ope. ration of which he will have cause to deplore. One necessary cause of the impotence of human law is, that its penalties are arbitrary by which I mean that they do not grow out of the of. fence-their only connexion with it being the result of positive enactment. They, therefore, seldom tend to amend the subject, or even to prevent others from committing, or the subject from repeating the same crime. They, moreover, fail of making any amends to the statute violated, or the party or parties injured thereby. The law of Zeleucus was characterized by all these defects, and according to the theory of endless suffering, such are also the characteristics of the law of Heaven. For, is it pretended that between the sinful acts of men, and their suffering in ceaseless fire, there is any necessary connexion? If not, then the penalty is arbitrary. Is it pretended that it will yield reparation to the violated law ? or to the party or parties sinned against ? or will it tend to the emendation of the sufferer? or to deter others from Imitating his example? If neither of these, then is it not most undeniably a gratuitous cruelty.

But it will be said, perhaps, that I lose sight in this argument of the main object of punishment, viz., that of rendering satisfaction to the law. But I deny that the law is satisfied with the punishment of its violator, for punishment is not an end in legis lation, it is but a means to an end—the end itself is obedience. It is the essence of silliness to suppose that the law will rest satisfied with the means, while the end is unaccomplished. But the theory of ceaseless suffering supposes this. Therefore, said theory is the essence of silliness. Is the physician satisfied with the ministry of medicine to a patient, without reference to his cure? Or the farmer with the putting in of his seed without reference to a harvest ?

If God's law has not respect to the ultimate good of the punished, then, as it regards him, it is not benevolent—and if not benevolent, it is also not just. If it has respect to his final good this will be the issue of its operations with regard to him Either this conclusion is just, or the law is imperfect; but the



law is not imperfect; therefore the conclusion is just. Logic, then, brings us to the very truth attested by the saviour, and before quoted, viz., that the law of God, in every jot and tittle, which is love to God and to our neighbors, shall infallibly be fulfilled, in the universal obedience of all the intelligences for whose behoof it exists.

I ask now, are the penalties annexed to this law, such as will defeat its intentions, and render impossible its fulfilment? They certainly are, if the theory of unceasing punishment be true, for in that case, myriads of myriads of beings will eternally remain in a state of rebellion against God, and of enmity toward each other. To render the absurdity of this still more glaring, we will again have recourse to comparison.

A preceptor, having under his care numerous pupils of highly respectable parentage, is anxious to advance them to the highest possible state of intelligence, in order that they may prove ornaments to society, and creditable to himself as their instructor ; he accordingly frames a strict code of disciplinary rules for their guidance, and enacts among other things, that any pupil who shall for a certain term of time neglect his studies, shall forever thereafter be debarred from all means of mental improvement, and be doomed to perpetual ignorance. Reader, can you see any fitness between such a law, and the preceptor's original design ? On the contrary, could he have adopted a surer measure for its frustration ? And think you that in the government of the universe, God thus weakly legislates against his own purposes ? You must deem but meanly of his wisdom if you do.

The only plea now remaining for endless misery connected with this subject is, that by its penal operations upon the offender, the law will secure the respect to which it is entitled. This plea is good as it regards limited and emendatory punishment; but as it regards that which is endless, it is utterly void of force, for a law which acts against its own ends—which respects not the ultimate good of those upon whom its penalties fall—and which is therefore blind-weak-vindictive--and inconsistent is in fact entitled to no respect, and can never secure it from rational beings; a servile compliance with its mandates, from motives of fear, it may indeed exact, but in that case it can with no propriety be called " the perfect law of Liberty.” God's way


[ocr errors]

of securing respect for his law, consists in his having made it so reasonable in itself—so just-so pure-so benevolent~so everything that it should be that the mind truly enlightened in regard to its nature and claims, cannot but choose to obey its dictatesmost cheerfully and heartily to obey them : if all minds do not now so choose, it is because all minds are not now so enlightened ; but the covenant of God's love, which promises to bless all mankind in Christ Jesus, implies his purpose thus ultimately to enlighten all, and to bring all to obey this law, as the means of that blessedness. “I will put my law in their minds," saith God, as before quoted, “and will write it in their hearts." And then will have come to pass the prediction of the prophet, " And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isaiah liv. 13.) “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God." (John, vi. 45.) Thus what the prophet foretold, Christ has sanctioned.

How beautiful, then, is the light which the scriptures have thrown upon this interesting subject! and how opposed, at every step, are its conclusions, to the drear and spirit-blighting theory of endless suffering ! According to their teaching, as before shown, God's law, like himself, is love; its perfection consists in its adaptedness to convert the soul. (Psl. xix. 7.) God's veracity is pledged that he will write on all hearts, (Heb. viii. 11, 12.) and when this is done, all will obey it. 6. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” will set them free “ from the law of sin and death,” (Rom. viii. 2.) herein consists the blessedness of the upright, that “ his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psl. ii. 2.) Reader, get possession of this law of love, and it will lead you to visit the fatherless and the widow-to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God—to love your enemies to overcome evil with good and thus to assimilate to the character of your father in heaven. “ Great peace have they that love the law of God, and nothing shall offend them,” (Psl. cxix. 165.)




1. AS OUR CREATOR.He must be, in a remote sense at least, responsible for the issue of our being, and according as it shall prove a blessing or a curse, he may be regarded as a benefactor or an enemy, and we shall have endless reasons for gratitude toward him, or for resentment. It is vain to attempt an evasion of this consequence, for if it be said that our misery would not have been, but for our sin, it must also be admitted that our sin would not have been, but for our existence, nor our existence, but for our creator: to this conclusion, then, it must come at last, and here it must rest. What man, though ever so much depraved, would consent to be a parent, with the certain knowl. edge before him, that his offspring would be a subject of misery and degradation in this life, and of ceaseless and hopeless suffering in another? And provided he did so consent, might not his offspring justly account him his foe, and hold him accountable for all the evils of his wretched being? It would certainly not avail the parent to plead that he was actuated by benevolent motives in conferring that existence, and that he designed it should prove a blessing to the recipient; for how could he have designed that for good which he knew would prove an evil ? Man, however, though possessing the foresight supposed, might plead the strength of his sensual inclinations, and the insufficiency of his moral principles of resistance, not in excuse, but in extenuation of his pernicious act; but could the divine character, in a similar case, find shelter under such a plea? No, for “God cannot be tempted with evil,” (James i, 13.) nor has he sensual inclinations to gratify.

“ But," inquires an objector, “ may not the creator have made man subject to the liabilities supposed in the doctrine of endless misery, with the view of testing his obedience ?--for if man were not left to his own election between good and evil, how could his virtue as a moral agent be put to the proof?" A sheerer fallacy never perplexed the poor human brain !

What! the almighty

maker of man must have recourse to tests to know the qualities of what he creates ! It is to be hoped then, that he is made wiser by his experiments! But supposing such a test necessary, still it might have been made without involving endless, and, therefore, irremediable consequences. That man is left to his choice between good and bad is not denied ; but it is denied that infinite benevolence has suspended his weal or woe, for eternity, on so frail and fickle a thing as the human will-more especially as he could not but foresee the result of such suspension.

A father having mixed a quantity of arsenic with some white sugar, puts the compound into the hands of his children, acquainting them at the same time with its poisonous qualities, and cautioning them against eating of it; they, however, seduced by its appearance, and detecting nothing but agreeableness in the taste, disbelieve, or disregard the parental admonition, allow their appetites the dangerous indulgence, and experience death as the consequence. The neighbours of the father, hearing that the children came into possession of the poison by his agency, inquire his motives in arming his poor offspring with the means of selfdestruction. • Merely by way of experiment,” he replies, “ upon their faith in my word, and obedience to my commands." The neighbours inquire again if he did not foresee the probable issue of the experiment. Yes,” he answers, “ not only the probable, but the certain issue, was as clear to me before the trial as it is since-still, I meant no harm to my children by the affair ;" can you not, reader, anticipate the judgement of the neighbours upon this cruel transaction ? 66 Wretch !" methinks I hear them exclaim, “You are guilty of the murder of your children ! you supplied them with the instrument of death, full well knowing how fatally to themselves they would employ it; and now you seek to deafen your conscience to the voice of their blood by the weak plea, that you designed a result, different from what you were assured would take place! you are convicted, sir, out of your own mouth."

Yet is this contemptible apology the best that can be found, by the advocates of unending woe, for the defence of the divine character. God designed well in creating those to whom he knew their existence would prove an endless curse.

Let us conceive Jehovah as existing alone in the solitude of uopeopled space. Stood he then in need of creatures like us, to



« PreviousContinue »