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“ stand ?” I To illustrate this position let the following things be noticed ;
(1.) It was an act of sovereignty to defer the full punishment of fin, with respect to all offenders; and to constitute such a plan as admitted of delay, without reflecting dishonour on the divine government. Had ftri£t justice taken place on the first offence, punishment must have taken place of probation immediately.
(2.) It is by a succession of sovereign acts that one finner, in preference to another, is prepared for an honourable acquittal. Of this kind are justification, by which the unworthy are pardoned and accepted in the beloved; regeneration, whereby the dead in fin are made alive to God by the operation of the Holy Spirit, adoption, in virtue of which the outcasts are brought into the family of God; progreskve fančtification, which is every where considered as an effect of which God is the cause : finners are fantified by God the Father,* Christ is made to them the transforming cause of fan&tification,t and such are changed from sin to holiness, from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. ||
(3.) It is by a sovereign constitution that the best of men will be acquitted in judgment; for in many things all offend, and were God in extreme justice to mark iniquity in the pardoned, renewed, adopted and fanctified, none would be able to stand.
(4.) It is through sovereign favour that the future bliss of the redeemed was prepared for, and will be conferred upon them. The inheritance was designed K
I Psalm cxxx. 3. * Jude 1. t 1 Cor. i. 30. || 2 Cor. ii. 18. for them before they had a being, and the service bears no proportion to the reward, whether we consider the quality, the quantity, or the duration of that service.
$ 7. We must remark, however, that though strict equity would condemn the least imperfect of human characters, nevertheless the honourable acquittance and remuneration of the blessed will appear to rest on equitable grounds. For,
1. The provision made in the appointment of a Mediator, the favour conferred in the imputation of worthiness, the mode adopted in the communication of purity, were by no means incompatible with the strictest equity. Its line was not transgressed by the steps of sovereignty, though left at a glo. rious distance on the favourable side.
2. That there should be made a great and lasting difference between the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the bad, between penitents, who have mourned for fin, hated and forsaken it; believers, who received God's testimony of his Son, and of every revealed truth; obedient ones, who took up their cross daily to follow Christ, through the tribulations of time ; good and faithful servants, who improved their talents for the glory of God and the good of men — that there should be a dif- . ference between these and the opposite characters, every one must allow to be equitable. The su. preme Governor proposes the reward conditionally; as far, then, as the condition is performed, as to righteousness which gives a title, or holiness which renders meet for heaven, it can be no infringement of the rights of justice that the one is provided for us, and the other wrought in us, by a sovereign hand.
$ 8. Let us now enquire, What will be the effeets and consequences of judgment? With respect to the righteous, there can be little doubt. Their happiness, it is universally allowed, will be complete and everlasting; a happiness, which im. plies the purity of their nature, freedom from the molestations of evil, with a full, uninterrupted enjoyment of God the chief good.
On the contrary, the miseries of the wicked will be great. What is there terrible in nature, or painful to humanity, which has not been employed by the righteous Governor to represent their miseries ? And, indeed, the moral impurity of their natures, not meliorated by grace, will prove as conftant fuel to the fire of hell. To which we may add, as no small source of their woe, perpetual moleftations from every object that presents itself. Even in this life, how different the sensation excited by a view of a number of innocent children, or an assembly of benevolent '
men, engaged in divine worship, or consulting to promote the good of their fellow men, from what is felt by a view of a gang of robbers, a lawless banditti, or malevolent desperadoes ? What can exceed the woe of banishment from God, accompanied with a sense of his K 2
displeasure, an accusing conscience, felt impurity, with insulting and tormenting devils ?
$ 9. But it has been formerly afferted by ORIGEN, and of late by some American divines, who have at this day some abettors in England, chiefly * among the Socinians, that the misery of the wicked will not be everlasting. On this opinion, which for many ages was deemed heretical, let us bestow a few thoughts.
In this controversy, the first point of investigation should be, What is the due of a moral agent as transgressor of a law holy, just and good? When this is clearly ascertained, no doubt can remain with respect to the question, What is equitable conduct in God towards him? Now, if moral evil be not fol. lowed with natural and penal evil, an accountable creature may fin with impunity, which involves a contradiction. But this natural evil is not a fome. thing extraneous to the subject; it arises from the defect itself introduced by fin, and the infeparable circumstances of the sinner. And this misery will be so far from receiving mitigation from the idea of
the divine benevolence, that the latter will rather - increase it. The more amiable and glorious God
is in himself, the more intolerable will be a conscious contrariety to him. Moral means, from all juft views of their nature, will never enfure a change of heart in the finner. His free nature, if left on
* Mr. WINCHESTER, indeed, who is a strenuous advocate for the doctrine of universal restoration, belongs to another class of christians.
the ground of mere equity, may revolt everlastingly; and the same nature, as depraved, necessarily must, except a miracle intervene. As soon may rivers run to their fountains, matter specifically heavy recede from the center, or any great law of nature be reversed, as natural evil cease to exist in a moral agent fallen from rectitude.
§ 10. To begin this controversy, therefore, with the examination of scriptural phrases, such as forever, forever and ever, eternal, everlasting, as if there was no evidence of the doctrine (that the just wages of fin is never-ending pain) prior to the consideration of such phrases, is not a fair procedure. Wherefore, the true state of the question is, Whether God has given us positive evidence sufficient to engage our belief, that he will so far supersede the claims of fri& equity by an act of sovereign benevolence as to liberate the inhabitants of hell from the slavery of fin, and the misery it merits, by constituting them righteous, and miraculously changing their nature from finful to holy. To suppose that punishment itself (or corre Elion, as the persons I have in view choose to call it) will effect a reformation, betrays great inattention to the nature of that evil which it is thought capable of removing. For we should confider it as consisting, not in a positive infliction from the mere pleasure of God, as if any way opposite to his infinite benevolence in general, or his rectoral benevolence to the sufferer in particular, but in a consciousness of defect, of contrariety to rectitude, to holiness, and to every persection of God. To