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velling in apprehension, how little capable of estimating the benignity of the author of its mercies, must be that mind which dreams that the Deity is partial, because, by diffusing every where a countless variety of capacity, excellence, and happiness, he has adopted the means of producing the greatest sum of enjoy
The great things which make us what we are, which minister to the primary wants, and which lie at the foundation of the happpiness of all animal and intelligent natures, are always and every where the same. Life itself is the same, wherever that wonderful power, which imparts to a mass of clay the amazing properties of sensation and intelligence, has operated. Wherever a vital fluid circulates, from the lowest animal up to the highest human being, it flows to diffuse enjoyment. To all, indeed, it does not impart an equal sum of happiness, because it could not do so, unless every object in nature were exactly alike; but to all it is the source of pleasure. Simple existence is a blessing; simply to be, is happiness. And this is the case with every race of animals, and with every individual of every race. The Deity has made no distinction in the nature of the existence which he has given to his creatures. He has not made the act of existing pleasureable in one and painful in another; he has made it the same in all, and in all he has made it happy. No reason can be assigned for this, but that he is good to all.
Every appearance of partiality vanishes from all his great and substantial gifts. It is only in what is justly termed the adventitous circumstances which attend his bounties, that the least indication of it can be supposed to exist; yet narrow minds confine their attention to these adventitious circumstances, and hence conclude that he is partial in the distribution of his goodness; while all his great and fundamental blessings are so universally and equally diffused, that they demonstrate him to be a Being of perfect benevolence. Now we ought to reason from the great to the little, not from the little to the great. We ought to say, Because, in every thing of primary importance, there is no appearance of partiality, therefore there can be really none, although in lesser things there is some inequality in the distribution of the absolute sum of enjoyment; not because there is some inequality in lesser things, therefore, there must be partiality, although there is no indication of it in any thing of real moment.
If to this consideration be added what has already been established, that even the most wretched of the human race enjoy a great preponderance of happiness, it will furnish another decisive proof, that the Deity designed to make all his creatures happy.
us more members than to another? Has he superadded to one, in the use of an organ, an exquisite degree of enjoyment, which he has denied to another? Are not all our organs the same, adapted to the same uses, and produetive of the same gratifications? Has he not given to all the same number of senses, and made them the source of similar intelligence and pleasure?*
Indeed, no one can imagine, that in the formation and government of the world the Deity has been influenced by partiality, without entertaining the most low and puerile conceptions of his nature and conduct. When of one piece of clay he made an animal without reason, and of another a man, he felt no more partiality towards the clay which formed the man, than towards that of which he constructed the animal without reason. But he determined to impart enjoyment to an infinite variety of organized and sensitive creatures. It was necessary to the perfection of his plan, that there should be an animal without reason; it was necessary that there should be a man. He therefore gave to each the properties it possesses.
Now, while we suppose that he was not influenced by partiality, in the distinction which he has made between the different genera of creatures, shall we imagine, that when he proceeded to form the species, and still more the individuals, he on a sudden changed the principle of his conduct, and acted solely with a view to gratify a capricious fondness for one individual, and aversion to another-that classes and orders, those great lines of demarkation between different creatures, do not proceed from partiality, but that the slight shades of difference which distinguish indl viduals from individuals do? Can any conception be more puerile? Every blessing dif fused over the creation, which is of great or permanent importance, is given, not to individuals, but to the species. This is the invariable law of nature.
But, while the universality of the divine benevolence will be readily admitted, with respect to the blessings which have been mentioned, many persons believe that the Deity acts upon a totally different principle, with regard to the distribution of moral and spiritual favour, and that he invariably confines the communication of this description of good to a few chosen individuals. The most popular systems of religion which prevail in the present age are founded upon this opinion. But if it be a fact, that there is no partiality in the primary and essential gift of existence, in life, considered as a whole, in the minor properties and felicities of our nature, in our senses, in our intellectual and moral faculties, and in the
* If those who are born blind or deaf, or are deIf we look inward on ourselves, and con- prived of any sense by accident, should be consider all the parts which minister to the per-sidered exceptions to this general rule, it is still fection and happiness of our nature, whether only the exception of one case in many thousands; animal or intellectual, we shall find a farther and the loss, even where it does take place, is very generally compensated, in no inconsiderable confirmation of this great truth. Did not one degree, by the acuteness which the remaining God fashion us? Has he given to any one of senses acquire.
gratification of which they are respectively the
Now the difference which is here supposed between two beings of the same species is never found to exist. There is nothing similar to it in the whole range of that part of the creation with which we are acquainted. Dilferences between individuals of the same species are observable, but there is nothing approaching the immensity of this inconceivable distinction. Whatever differences prevail are those of degree, not of kind. Every individual of the same species has every essential property the same as his fellows; but here a poperty infinitely more important in its consequences than the addition of a new sense would be, is given to one and denied to another. This looks not like the work of the Deity. It is a vast and sudden chasm in a plan of wondrous order, for which no preparation is made, to which we are led by no preparatory steps, for which nothing can account, and which nothing can reconcile. It bears upon it traces of the imperfect and short-sighted contrivance of man; it is contradicted by all which we feel and know of the works of God, and it ought to be driven from the mind of every rational being, that the fair creation of the Deity may no longer be falsified by the deceptive medium through which it is viewed, and that our Maker may not be charged with injustice because our eye is evil!
We perceive, that, in addition to mere animal existence, man is endowed with organs which constitute him the most perfect of the creatures which inhabit the earth. Why were these organs given him? Without doubt that he might enjoy a higher degree of happiness than the creatures beneath him. To the organs which constitute him a mere (though a very perfect) animal, there are then superadded others which impart to him a rational and moral nature, with a view that he may enjoy a more perfect happiness; but besides all these, other properties are added, which exalt him still higher in the scale of creation-properties, for the reception of which, the former only qualify him-properties which make him capable of loving his Maker, and of enjoying him for ever. Why is he endowed with these? Certainly that he may enjoy a more perfect happiness than he could attain without them. Must not this reason then induce the Author
of these invaluable blessings to bestow them Of the Impossibility of Frustrating the Design upon the race as well as upon a few individuals?
of the Deity.
Let the mind dwell for a moment upon what it is it really supposes, when it imagines that these properties are given to some and denied to others. The difference between the man who is capable of perceiving the excellence of the great and perfect Being who made him, of loving him, and of conforming to his character, and the man who not only is not endow ed with this capacity, but is impelled by the principles of his nature to hate the Deity, is infinitely greater than the difference between a worm and the most exalted of the human race. For, if before the religious faculty begins to be developed, there appear no remarkable distinction between them, let them be observed after this principle has been called into action, and has operated for some time. It will then be seen, that in their conceptions, their occupations, and their enjoyments, they totally differ from each other-that they have hardly any thing in common-that there is as great a distinction between them, as between the insect which grovels in the dust, and the man who first measured the distances of the stars, and taught us the laws by which the universe is governed. Let the mind look forward to eternity, and suppose, (as always is supposed,) that both will progressively advance, each in his career, through the ages of an endless duration; how immeasurable does the distance between them then become!
If the Deity created all men with a design to make them happy, their ultimate felicity is certain; for, if a being propose to himself the accomplishment of a design, he will perform it, unless some motive arise from within to induce him to change it, or some circumstance arise from without to oblige him to change it. Nothing can explain the failure of his purpose, unless it be supposed, either that he has voluntarily changed it, or has been forced by some superior power to abandon it.
If the Deity voluntarily change his plan, it must be for the better or for the worse. If for the better, the original plan must have been imperfect; if for the worse, since he knows all things perfectly, and must therefore foresee the consequence, it follows, that what he perceives to be a good plan is relinquished for one which he knows to be bad; but the supposition, that a wise and good Being can thus act, is impossible.
If, on the contrary, he has been forced to change his plan, that which obliged him to do so must be stronger than he; for no being will permit his design to be frustrated by a power which is weaker than himself. Whatever, therefore, it be, which frustrates the design of the Deity, must be stronger than omnipotence, which is a contradiction.
In a word, God is a Being of perfect good-
him happy. There is nothing in the universe capable of frustrating his design. However, therefore, that design be opposed-through whatever long or painful discipline man may be conducted to happiness, he must finally
It does not seem possible to avoid this conclusion, but by saying that the Deity possesses other attributes, which are of a nature contrary to that upon which the whole of this reasoning is founded; and in fact this is affirmed. To all the arguments in favour of the final happiness of mankind, deduced from the goodness of God, it is replied, that God is a Sovereign, and can do what he pleases; that he is just, and must maintain the rights of his law; that he is holy, and must punish sin. All these positions are strictly true; but it is difficult to conceive how they can oppose the conclusions which are deduced from his goodness. They cannot possibly do so, unless the attributes of sovereignty, justice, and holiness, are contrary to goodness, and this is what is really affirmed. These perfections are conceived to be tremendous attributes, which are different from and opposite to goodness. It would seem like trifling, to confute this opinion, and to show that they can be only modifications of benevolence; yet it is necessary to prove it, and this is attempted in another part of this work. At present it may be sufficient to show, in general, that a Being of perfect goodness can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with that perfection,
attribute, to decide whether or not it can belong to the Deity. If an attribute be evil, it certainly cannot belong to God. Now theattribute, whatever it be, which inflicts endless misery on any being, is evil. It is not affirmed merely that the atribute is evil which inflicts endless misery on the great majority of men, but that attribute is so which inflicts it even upon one single individual; and the proof is obvious.
Of the Harmony of the Divine Perfections. A Being of perfect goodness can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with that perfection; for whatever is inconsistent with goodness is evil, and to affirm that a Being may be perfectly good, while he possesses a single attribute which is contrary to goodness, is to say that he may be perfectly good at the same time that he is evil.
Since whatever is inconsistent with goodness is evil-since it has been proved, that all evil has its origin in want or weakness-since it is universally acknowledged, that God is almighty, and therefore can have no want nor weakness, it follows, that he can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with benevolence.
We have only to determine the nature of an
Misery, considered in itself, is evil. Misery is only another word which is used to express pain of some kind or other. Pain, considered simply in itself, is universally admitted to be evil. Whatever produces pain, without doing any thing else, is evil.
Is all pain, then, evil? No. Why? Because some pain has an ulterior object, which is the production of good. Hunger, for example, is attended with pain, but this pain is not evil, because it has an ulterior object. Its design is not to inflict suffering, but to preserve life by inducing the animal to take food. In proportion, therefore, as life is a good to the animal, the pain which excites him to use the means of preserving it is a good.
Now all pain which has not this ulterior object, being pure and simple pain, pain and nothing else, is evil. But misery inflicted through endless ages cannot possibly accomplish this ulterior object, since there is no period in which it can effect it; such misery must be evil, therefore, in the highest possible degree.
It will avail nothing, to say that the object of the infliction of endless misery is not pain, but the satisfaction of immutable justice. This does not in the least affect the argument; for the position is, that that attribute, whatever it may be called, is evil, which inflicts misery upon a being, without doing and without de signing to do any thing else to him. To that being it is pure, positive, absolute evil. Whatever makes a being more miserable than happy, the whole of his existence considered, is to him positive evil. A good being must cause to every creature an excess of pleasure above pain, for he is good to it only in proportion as he does so. But, according to the doctrine of endless punishment, God does not cause tɔ the great majority of his creatures an excess of pleasure above pain; for he deprives them, through the whole of their future existence, of every pleasurable sensation, and inflicts upon them the most unremitted and intolerable anguish.
It is nothing to say that the happiness intended to be bestowed upon his creatures by the Deity is conditional. There can be no doubt that it is so
It is usual to represent the future punishment of the wicked in the following manner: suppose a large mountain, composed of the minutest grains of sand; suppose one of these grains to be removed once in a million of years
far conditional, that no being can be happy until he becomes virtuous. But the circumstances in which men are placed, and the ultimate effect of those circumstances upon their character, were clearly foreseen by the Deity; and if he perceived that any individual, under any particular combination of circumstances, would never become virtuous, he would either have altered his circumstan
the length of time which would elapse before the removal of the last of these grains infinitely surpasses our power of conception. Yet this period, immeasurable as it is, is not endless, and therefore can convey to the mind but a faint idea of the duration of the torments of the wicked. We must suppose the globe
ces, or not have called him into existence. One
or other of these measures benevolence required. itself to be composed of grains of sand-nay,
all the planets of our system, and all the stars
*I profess myself utterly unable, by any language at my command, to convey an adequate conception of the ideas which are in the minds of the advocates of this doctrine. Let one of the most respected of these advocates perform the task himself: "Be entreated," says Edwards, in his 'Discourse on the Eternity of Hell Torments,' p. 28, &c., to consider attentively how great and awful a thing ETERNITY is! Although you cannot comprehend it the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme pain for ever and ever-to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, from one year to another, from one age to another, from one thousand ages to another, and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands, in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth-with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies, and every member of them, full of racking torturewithout any possibility of getting ease without any possibility of moving God to pity your cries without any possibility of hiding yourself from him -without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain-without any possibility of obtain ing any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better!-How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them to have no hope-when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it-when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad, or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it when you would rejoice if you might but have any relief, after you shall have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it-when, after you have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in
Such is the doctrine of endless misery. Can any one seriously believe it? Can any human being consider what God is, and what endless misery implies, and affirm that he really thinks the infliction of the one consistent with the perfections of the other?
your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day or night, or one minute's ease, yet you shall have no hope of being delivered-when, af ter you shall have worn out a thousand more such ages, yet you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are no one whit nearer to the end of your torments that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend for ever and ever, and that your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, yet will still exist to bear more wrath-your bodies, which shall have been burning all this while in these glowing flames, yet shall not have been consumed, but will remain through an eternity yet, which shall not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past!"
In the next page he adds, "Besides, their capacity (that of the wicked) will probably be enlarged, their understandings will be quicker and stronger in a future state; and God can give them as great sense, and as strong an impression of eternity as he pleases, to increase their grief and torment." What a tremendous, what a savage thought! What a thing is system! To think that a man, possessing a heart of flesh, and an understanding contemplate such a scene as this, and imagine it enlightened by the Christian religion, can steadily is a just exhibition of the conduct of the Author of this beautiful and happy world! Such conduct is worthy of the mind that plotted the inquisition, and of the heart that first leaped in exultation at the device of consuming the body in the flaming faggot for the the good of the soul; but to impute it to the pure, and lovely, and benignant Spirit that presides over the universe-language cannot speak the horror that is in it.
While feeling as I do, the utter inability of language to express the deep reprobation with which such representations ought to be regarded by all Christians, I should think myself deficient both in candor and justice, were I to omit to state a truth of which there is abundant evidence, and of which I rejoice to perceive that the evidence is increasing, namely, that in the present age many persons who believe in the doctrine of endless misery shrink with unfeigned horror from such exhibitions of it. Many excellent and pious persons, some of whom I have the pleasure of knowing, though they cannot satisfy themselves that the terms in which the scriptures speak of the endless suffering of the wicked import less than an endless duration, and though they profess themselves unable to see any injustice in the infliction of an endless punishment, yet believe that the degree of suffering actually imposed will not exceed that which is perfectly consistent with infinite benevolence. What that degree is, they do not presume to determine. On this awful subject, they are content to take the language of scripture as they find it, and wish uniformly to adhere to that language, satisfied that, whatever be the degree and the duration of the misery really threatened, the Judge of all the earth must do right. While, therefore, their wishes incline them to milder views of the divine inflictions, they highly disapprove of such representations of them as those that have been cited, which they think, if considered and believed, must fill the mind with too much terror, to exert, a reasonable and steady influence over it, and, if not considered and believed, can be of no service. 199
All the weight of the preceding reasoning, all the obstacles which it opposes to the belief that such can be the end of the greater part of the rational world, created by an infinitely wise, powerful, and good Being, may be applied against the doctrine, that the wicked will be raised from the dead, made to suffer great bodily anguish, and then blotted | out of existence forever. Against the doctrine
tremely simple, at another wonderfully complicated, but at all times perfectly wise and efficient. The external frame of man, however, is only a part, and a very inferior part, of this wonderful microcosm; and, since such inimitable skill has been exerted in the construction of it, we must conclude that the whole nature of man is designed to answer some purpose, and, if it be right to judge of the impor
of endless punishment, it seems decisive; tance of the object by the magnitude of the against the doctrine of limited punishment means employed to secure it, a purpose truly terminated by destruction, it applies with excellent. great, though not with equal force; for, while the first opinion teaches that he acts altogether contrary to goodness, the second represents him as not acting up to what sober and unpresuming reason seems to indicate the full measure of it.
If we examine the higher faculties with which man is endowed, and judge of the purpose for which they are imparted, by that to which they are adapted, we cannot mistake the ends they are designed to answer. All the nobler properties by which he is distinIn a word, if God be really a Being of perfect guished may be arranged, with sufficient acgoodness, who can at no time act without the curacy for the present purpose, under intellecmost benevolent design-if, when he created tual powers, and his social and moral tendenman, he intended that he should be pure and cies. He can observe the beauty and order happy, and if there be nothing in the universe of the world in which he is placed; he can capable of frustrating his purpose, both the investigate the causes of its phenomena; he doctrine of endless misery, and that of limited can ascertain the laws by which it is governpunishment terminated by destruction, appeared; he can penetrate into the secret recesses to be attended with insuperable difficulties. of nature, and contemplate the process by But if, on the other hand, the sin, which at which many of the wonders which surround present prevails, and the punishment which him are formed; he can extend his view bein future will be inflicted upon it, be the means yond the boundaries of his own world, calcu employed by the Deity to accomplish his be- late the distances of the worlds above him, nevolent purpose-if the state of discipline in ascertain their magnitude, and trace their which he will place his erring creatures be so movements. He can perform a still more difwisely adapted to their mental and moral dis- ficult task. He can retire into himself, invesorder, as to oblige them to perceive, and feel, tigate the principles and propensities of his and hate, the folly of which they have been own nature, and reason respecting the very guilty, to excite in them a deep sorrow for it, faculties by which he conducts the astonishand a real love of goodness-and if, when thus ing process of thought. Endowed with affecfitted for pure enjoyment, he mercifully per- tions which lead him out of himself, and atmits them to participate of it, every difficulty tach him to his fellow-beings, he can rejoice vanishes, every thing is consistent, every in their joy, and weep for their woe; he feels thing is glorious, every counsel is benevolent, bound to them by tender and endearing ties; and every perfection harmonizes with the event. without their society, he is gloomy and sad; His justice, his holiness, his wisdom, his pow- so long as he cherishes the generous affections er, his goodness, will have been exerted, and in his intercourse with them, cheerfulness exerted successfully, to bring about a result tru- smiles upon his features, and happiness dilates ly exalted and glorious. Then, indeed, may the his heart. He can sit in judgment on the nauniversal acclamation of praise burst from his ture of his own conduct, distinguish between intelligent creation-Alleluia, for the Lord good and evil, and, while he glows with adGod omnipotent reigneth! miration at the contemplation of every gene rous and sublime affection, he feels indignation and disgust at the selfishness which considers only its own good, and the vice which pursues it at the expense of the general happiness.
OF THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF THE DOC- He can hold intercourse with the Great Being
who gave him existence, and who crowns him
A SKILFUL artificer, in constructing a piece of machinery, modifies and combines its various parts so as to make them subservient to a particular purpose, and we estimate the perfection of the mechanism by the completeness with which every thing is included necessary to secure the intended result, and every thing avoided which may impede it. In the external frame of man, there is the most exquisite adaptation of different parts to each other; the most beautiful results are designed and accomplished by contrivances, at one time ex