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LUKE 20: 16, 17.


Two sermons have lately been preached and printed among us, discussing the reasonableness of the doctrine of the endless punishment of the wicked.

The first affirms that it is reasonable. After seeking to intensify upon the mind the conception of the evil of sin, as antagonist to God and good, and developing the earnestness of God, in Christ and by the Holy Spirit, to bring men, during probation, to repentance and reconciliation, the question is stated as being: What is reasonable for those men to expect who persist in their repugnance to God, and go into the next world unsoftened by these influences of mercy;- further efforts to reclaim them, or that they be given up to the sin they have chosen, and its consequences? It is then argued that what has been commonly held to be the doctrine of the Bible, that eternal punishment will be the doom of all such incorrigible offenders, is reasonable, because there are no valid objections against its reasonableness. The objection that eternal punishment is too long a penalty for the sins of a short life is answered by saying, that none but God can judge with regard to that, and by the suggestions that the transgressor has been duly notified; that men never complain that it is unjust when, by their own carelessness, they lose a voyage which may change

the entire course of life; that a crime which may justly demand imprisonment for life, or even capital punishment, may be committed in a single hour; that if life is too short to merit eternal punishment, it is too short, also, to secure eternal salvation; and that if we dwell upon this vague idea of eternity, in this way, as John Foster did, we shall destroy all our confidence in the government of God here, as well. The objection that a finite sin cannot merit an infinite punishment is answered by the suggestion that it is not one act of sin, but a life-habit of sin which God will punish, and that there can be no little sin against Jehovah. The objection that it is libellous to God to believe that he can punish his children eternally, is set aside by the plea, that, if this reasoning is good, it is equally libellous to him to believe that he can permit such wholesale and horrible disasters as that of the "Central America;" that God is King and Judge as well as Father, and that, therefore, the analogy between divine and human parentage is imperfect. It is suggested, moreover, that while God's judgments are a great deep, there are yet so many tokens in Sabbaths, and providences, of the divine sincerity in persuading men to be reconciled to Him in this life, by the very argument that there is no reconciliation beyond it, as to settle it that God does all for his vineyard here that he can do for it, and make it reasonable to believe that those who persist in impenitence to the end of life, will be eternally excluded from heaven.

The sermon then passes to several miscellaneous considerations. It is said that we are not the judge of the heathen, and that we shall either find them in heaven, if we get there, or find good reason for their exclusion. The idea that literal fire is revealed as being the element in which the future punishment of the wicked will be executed, is repudiated. It is then affirmed that the threatening of future punishment to the wicked, has been a powerful element in the success of the Gospel thus far; and it is urged that the doctrine of eternal

punishment is logically and necessarily connected with the whole stupendous system of Gospel truth, so that its truth must stand or fall with that system. Christ died to deliver us from the wrath to come, therefore his death demonstrates our infinite ruin without it. If God has affixed less than an infinite punishment to sin, he must regard sin as less than an infinite evil. Yet all the lost will perish voluntarily. Affectionate persuasions to believe that the wages of sin is death, and to shape the life by such belief, receiving Christ as the Saviour from everlasting sorrow, conclude the appeal.

Such is as fair an outline as I am capable of giving of the first discourse-preached at Essex St., and again at Hollis St., to which I allude.*

The second-coming, subsequently, from the eloquent lips of the minister of the church last named puts the question thus: Is it reasonable to believe that God has ordained that the whole future of souls shall be determined by the state of heart, or by the attitude toward a theological system of redemption, in which human beings are found at the time of their death? This question is considered in the light of the principles of natural justice, of analogy, and of the privileges affirmed to be offered to men in the Gospel, and rejected by them.

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It is denied that it would be in accordance with natural justice for God to consign all men who are impenitent at death to an eternal hell:-in the first place, because God established this whole system, and no necessity, extraneous to him, can be conceived of which could compel him to make a moral system with such a disadvantage, if he made any, and if he made it such it can only be defended as just, by making justice merely synonymous with the Divine choice, whatever it may be; in the second place, because sin is not necessarily an infinite evil,

* The Reasonableness of Future, Endless Punishment, by N. Adams, D. D., Pastor of the Essex St. Church, Boston. Boston, Gould and Lincoln, 1858.

simply on the ground that God, against whom it is committed, is infinite, if it is an infinite evil, then our good acts are an infinite good and would balance it, — and if sin is an infinite evil, it will still rest with God's choice whether to visit upon it an infinite penalty or not; in the third place, because we have not been consulted about taking our place in such a system, and life cannot be a boon on such terms Albert Barnes and Edward Beecher being quoted in proof that the common Orthodox view when realized, is a gloomy one; in the fourth place, because "eternal salvation" is not the consequence of this brief life, but the consequence of eternal goodness and fidelity; in the fifth place, because if sin is the greatest evil in the universe, it is unreasonable to suppose that God will place the impenitent under such circumstances that they cannot help sinning forever; in the sixth place, because eternal punishment cannot be simply God's permission to the will of the wicked to remain wicked forever, because that supposes that their freedom of will is eternally continued, which implies the eternal possibility of their repentance; and, in the seventh place, because it is unreasonable to presume that the inhabitants of heaven need the eternal sight of the torments of the pit to keep up their sense of the beauty of holiness and their zeal in the praises of God.

It is further argued that there is no defence for the doctrine of future punishment on the ground of analogies like those of the man who loses his passage on a steamer, who gets imprisoned for life for the crime of one moment, &c., becauset is affirmed that the analogy is too feeble to bear the weight of the argument. It is urged that God's drowning or burning men here does not imply that he will punish them hereafter, and, in general, it is replied to all such reasonings that they fasten upon what is exceptional, rather than upon what is elemental and permanent in the Divine government in this world.

It is, next, denied that future punishment is implied in any

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threats of doom, and offers of rescue which are found in the Bible; while it is urged, that, even if the Bible did teach eternal punishment, that would not make the doctrine reasonable. It is affirmed that the Old Testament in no passage asserts that the penalty of God's law is everlasting pain; that Eden nor Sinai never heard of it; David nor Isaiah never hinted it. It is affirmed that "the idea of eternal punishment came into the Jewish mind and literature from heathen sources.' It is affirmed—as had been maintained at large in a previous discourse that Christ's language (when translated from poetry to prose) never reveals it; and that the only real basis for the doctrine is "an obscure parenthesis of the apostle Paul, in the fifth chapter of Romans, written twenty years after the crucifixion."

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Further, it is stated that future punishment is not implied in the doctrine of the cross. The speaker declares his own personal disbelief in the supreme deity of Christ, but still doubts whether those who believe that doctrine can logically urge that it implies the punishment of the wicked. He doubts the philanthropy that would not put on its coat and hat to go out of a winter's night to save a man from the commission of a crime with a penalty of ten years' imprisonment, simply because it is not imprisonment for life. He thinks if God can forgive our sin to-day, he can forgive it ten thousand years. hence; and that if eternal punishment is to be the portion of those who die impenitent, Christ is merely a mask for God's mercy during this brief life," which he tears from his face when we pass beyond the tomb."

The sermon closes by an appeal against the doctrine which it resists; by consistently saying to the sinner:-" You may be alien from God, may resist him, and deny him, and curtain yourself from him by the thick blankets of your passions. But he cannot hate you. Do not believe that his justice can ever be your foe;" and by adding, "it is heathen to ask for an interest in Christ, in order to be shielded from God's law. If

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