« PreviousContinue »
weak. Its advocates must be left to their own stupid infatuation.
I shall proceed to inquire, whether the miserable inhabitants of hell have any hope of relief ?
I. If their endless punishment is not revealed in the Scriptures, it could not have been. I mean by this remark that every varied form of words and expression is used in the Scriptures, to express this idea, that could be. After the process of the last judgment, the wicked are to go, accursed, into everlasting fire; where they are to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. And where the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and where they shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever. The words here used, are declared by the most approved lexicographers in the Greek and Hebrew languages to mean eternal : having no end. The same words, and others like them, are used in many texts, to express the duration of the miseries of the damned. And if they do not express endless duration, there are no words in those languages that do. And can we believe that they who used those languages had never received the idea of an eternity, or if they had the idea, had no words with which to express it? If, then, the Deity, in revealing his will, made use of the strongest words which human language afforded, to express endless punishment, and yet has failed, how could he have revealed this truth if it had been truth? It seems impossible, unless he had adopted some other mode of making known his will.
I cannot stop, brethren, to hear the quibbling of those, who, although they acknowledge that the fire will burn
forever, believe that the wretched victims will be released. It is as frequently and as strongly expressed, that the finally impenitent shall be punished forever, as that the fire shall forever burn. And it would be impeaching the character of God to suppose, that he would feed the flames of Tophet, while there was no employ for its fires. " Their worm shall not die.” “ They shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever."
But as to the main doctrine-what would men have had him say, that they might believe it? If he had said, They shall never escape from hell, would they believe him? This he has said. The very name of that place of misery indicates, that there is no escape. It is called a prison. “ Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him ; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." And as prisons are not usually left unbarred or unlocked, so we hear Christ say of this prison, “I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore; and have the keys of hell and of death.” And to secure the prisoners still more, they are reserved in chains under darkness.” Their place of abode is also termed a pit, a furnace, and a lake of fire. These terms imply a place of fearful confinement The text assures us that an impassable gulf confined the rich man in this perdition.
Had he said, they shall never reach heaven, or be in the place where his people are, and where he is, would this satisfy those who try to doubt? This he has said. “Sinners shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous.” “The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Christ said to some of the Jews, “ Ye shall die in your sins; whither I go ye cannot come.” And in another place he says, “Where I am, thither ye cannot come.” And the text again bars the finally impenitent out of heaven, by an impassable gulf. “They shall never see life, but the wrath of God abideth on them.”
Had he said, Sinners shall never be forgiven, would this have given satisfaction? This he has said. Said the Lord Jesus, "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." And we read again, that to those who sin wilfully, after they have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. It is predicted, that those who regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operations of his hands, he shall destroy, and not build them up. This does not look like restoring sinners to happiness after their sufferings. This would be building them up. But God intends to destroy them and not build them
up. God threatens sinners that he will destroy them with double, with everlasting, and perpetual destruction. He intends to consume them in his wrath. He intends to make them a perpetual desolation. They are destined to die the second death. It is the divine purpose that they shall perish forever. He intends to blot out their names forever. They are to be the subjects of endless despair. They are to weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth. Such will be their hopeless and miserable state, that they shall seek death, but death shall flee from them. These expressions all look like irrecoverable ruin. And if the Bible does not teach this doctrine, it is of all books the most difficult to understand. Instead of being that simple, intelligible book, which I have always conceived it to be, I despair of learning one truth from it. I would sell it for the fraction of a cent, and abandon myself to the fortuitous light of unintelligent natyre.
II. If the punishments of the wicked are not endless, we have no security in the Scriptures, that the saints will be forever happy. Each truth rests on the same species of evidence. The same words are used, and the same form of expression in both cases. God has sworn that the one shall live and the other die-the one be destroyed, the other saved--the one redeemed, the other damned ! The one is to go away into everlasting punishment, the other into everlasting life. The smoke of the torment of the one is to ascend up forever and ever, and, co-extensively with it, the other is to cry, alleluiah! Not a text can be found that more strongly expresses the duration of heaven's joys, than the miseries of hell. The Christian's hopes, then, of immortal blessedness are all a dream! He may yet learn the dreadful secret, that after tasting the joys of heaven, he may suddenly sink to the bottomless pit, and some fiend of darkness rise and fill his seat. And let Gabriel know that the prince of darkness, whom he thought to be an outcast forever, may yet walk with him, arm in arm, through the streets of the New Jerusalem, and he, perhaps, be sent to fill the infernal throne! When men embrace such sentiments, they scatter firebrands, arrows and death; and give them their wish, they fill the middle and the upper world with tears.
III. If sinners are to be released from punishment, it must be on the principle of mercy, or of justice. Let us view both sides of this question.
Are they to be saved, finally, by mercy? Does this idea comport with the sacred Scriptures ? According to Matthew, sinners are to remain in the prison of hell till they pay the uttermost farthing. Or, as Luke has it, till they have paid the very last mite. They are also to suffer as much as their sins deserve. They are to receive the due reward of their deeds. They are to drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, that is, without mixture of mercy, into the cup of his indignation, and are to be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. Now, if they are to pay the last mite, if there is to be nomixture of mercy in their cup, and if they are to suffer the due reward of their deeds, how can they be saved by mercy ? When one has paid the debt, is there any mercy in giving him his discharge? Does not justice demand his release? If the hour ever comes when sinners shall deserve no further punishment, will not all hell rise in one united band, and press into the court of heaven, to sue for their immediate discharge, on the principle of right? And will a righteous God deny them their suit?
Do any feel disposed to take the other side, and advocate the sinner's final emancipation on the principle of justice? Then let this matter be fairly viewed. The Scriptures represent salvation as the result of mercy. “By grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God." To this point is the whole tenor of Scripture. By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified.
Grace is to be the theme of the heavenly song. The redeemed of the Lord shall forever praise him who washed them from their sins in his blood. Now if any should finally make their way into heaven, whom