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but at any rate I think it clearly contradicts the doctrine which I am wishing to discountenance among men.
Now let us seriously inquire, why Christ taught doctrines 80 contradictory to that which some now pretend is the very glory of the gospel, and the brightest display of divine love?
Why did he never once declare the eternal salvation of all mankind ? Why, when the very question was put, " are there few that be saved,” (Luke xiii. 23,) did he not embrace the opportunity to open the gladsome tidings, in order to the greater glory of his Father? Why did he not, instead of an answer directly to the contrary, to wit, “ many will seek to enter, and shall not be able,” declare the transporting doctrine to the ends of the earth? And why did all his apostles combine in propagating a quite different opinion? Was there never a primitive teacher that was worthy to impart the sacred message, to divulge the glorious discovery, the total emancipation of all the sons of sor. row? Why was it left to the lukewarm teachers of this dissolute age, this day of dissipation, to spread abroad the most glorious doctrine of the gospel, as they would have us esteem it, while Jesus and his disciples united in the doctrine of eternal punishment? Even Jesus himself, as much difference as some pretend there is between everlasting and eternal, plainly tells us of a sin that shall not be forgiven,“ neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” and expressly declares such as commit it, to be in danger of " eternal damnation." See Mat, xii. 31, &c. Mark iii. 29. Now how can sinners be saved without forgiveness? Or what did our saviour mean by eternal damnation ? What did he mean by the "fire that never shall be quenched ?" Or why did he so repeatedly warn us to give up all that is near and dear, rather than risk the danger of this unquenchable, this ederlasting fire, even to the loss of a right hand, or an eye, both such useful members ? Read Mat. v. 29, &c. xviii. 8, and Mark ix. 43, &c. Indeed, so united were Christ and his primitive witnesses, that even Jude, in his one short chapter, as if on purpose to confirm the danger of that “eternal damnation" which Christ had spoken of, points out Sodom and Gomorrah, &c. as
an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Now, can it be supposed they all combined together to deceide man
kind, and to preach up terrors of which there was no danger? If not, why are sinners and wicked men, in such multitudes of passages in both Old and New Testament, sentenced to such terrible future judgments and miseries? Why so often doomed to perish—to destruction, wrath, vengeance, &c. &c.? And why is this state of the wicked so commonly placed in direct contrast with the future joys and everlasting life of the righteous ? Time perhaps would fail me to instance the whole of these passages. Divers of them we have already seen in this work, and that it is as here represented, is too plain to be denied by any. Well, why is it so, if all are to be happy? Why is good and blessing so constantly foretold to the righteous, but sorrow and suffering to the wicked? There must be some important meaning in all this ; and what can this meaning be upon the present principles of universal salvation? When Paul preached of " righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled.” Acts xxiv. 25. Doubtless he brought the consequences of intemperance into full view, as drawing down the wrath of God in the judgment to come: no wonder then that “ Felix trembled."
But, alas for the day! our modern preachers of smooth things might continue their speech from morning to midnight, and not cause one Felix to tremble neither; though perhaps they might, to screen their doctrine from the imputation of tending to licentiousness, try to point out some of the consequences of intemperance &c. in this world. But Paul spoke of the “ judgment to come;" and having known “ the terrors of the Lord,” himself, was able so to open the nature, and perhaps the duration thereof, as to pierce many a stout heart, and bring down into confusion and trembling, such as at other times might triumph, in their merry career, over the pure witness in themselves, and over all the admonitions in sacred record.
Perhaps no question is of greater if so great an importance to man, as that which respects his eternal state : and it seems as if the many strong assertions in scripture, and the many various ways in which this is pointed out, were intended in great loving kindness to him, as so many way-marks, to prevent his missing his road; especially seeing he is so prone to choose the broadway to destruction, and so apt to think his own crimes deserve but a light punishment, if any at all. Therefore, let all take heed to their ways, and endeavour to flee from the wrath to come; Jest their portion be with those unbelievers, murderers, whoremongers, liars, &c. which are to have their part in that lake that burns with fire and brimstone, the smoke whereof ascends ир forever and ever. See Rev. xiv. 9, 10, 11, 19. chap. xx. 10. xxi. 8.
Now this mode of expression “forever and ever," being divers times used in the New Testament, upon the subject of future torment, beside the other various forms of words to the same purpose, does it not seem as if no words, no modes of expression, no kinds of representation were to be omitted, that might strike our minds to advantage on this great subject; nor a stone left unturned, that might be turned to our profit? And as this phrase * forever and ever,” is frequently used to express the never-ending life or existence of the Almighty, the eternal duration of his kingdom, glory, dominion, and reign, why should we not suppose it means an eternal duration, when applied to future punishments? I believe no one instance can be shown in all the New Testament, where these words mean any thing short of a neverending duration, in any other case; why then shall we reject their plain, natural, and constant meaning, where we find them used in this case? especially as no kind hint is ever once given us in all the sacred records, that though in all other cases, they mean eternal, yet in this one case, they mean infinitely short of eternal! Might we not expect, if they meant so vastly different in this case from their otherwise constant meaning, that the goodness of God would have found out a way to signify this important difference to us, and not have left us so much in the dark about it? But indeed the numerous concurring methods of conveying instruction to us in scripture upon this point, seem so loudly to confirm the sentiment, that the meaning of these words is the very same in this as in other cases, that we have little reason to tell of being in the dark about their meaning in any case. Does not the whole current of the scripture throw such a light upon this subject, as must forever render it impossible for all the art and cunning craftiness of men, to establish a system upon the plan of the actual eternal salvation of all men, that will not run counter to the plainest doctrines of the gospel, and to the manifest design and intent of Christ and the apostles, in their preaching and writings ? For unless the many positive assertions in scripture do fully establish the doctrine of eternal punishments, I would ask how it could have been established by any possible expressions ? What words, what phrases, what modes of assertion, could have satisfied the reasoners of our age? Is there any word in any language, that more plainly means an eternal duration, than those used to point out the duration of future punishments? We have on this head, such words and sentences as these : “ the second death;" "everlasting punish, ment;" “everlasting fire;" "everlasting burnings ;" “everlasting confusion;" “everlasting contempt;" “eternal fire;" Heternal damnation;" “ damnation of hell;" "bell fire;" "unquenchable fire;" " the fire that never shall be quenched ; " " the great wine press of the wrath of God;" “ their worm dieth not ;” “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever;" "they have no rest day nor night;" " the blackness of dark. ness forever;" “ the mist of darkness forever;" “ the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;" “ everlasting destruction;" " whose end is destruction " " whose end shall be that be perish forever;" “ judgment without mercy-without mixture;" " under chains of darkness ;" “ fiery indignation;" " bottomless pit;" “ suffer ing the vengeance of eternal fire;" and such like; many more than may be necessary here to recapitulate.
What else could have been said? What more could have been done that is not done, as was queried of old? What other striking images, similitudes, or representations, could have been used, more strongly to establish this point? I believe a small part of the evidence which scripture affords in favour of endless punishment, would be thought abundantly sufficient by any of its opposers to establish forever any one of their darling notions. Could their union say half so much for itself, I believe their triumphings would be with far less mixture of doubt, fear, and misgivings of heart, than they now are.
But the truth is, this new scheme has little or nothing of the nature of religion in it; but is calculated exactly for a plan of libertinism, uneleanness, and dissipation. And though they may all deny this, I believe the true state of facts will in some degree favour it; for if a few of the most sober ought to be excepted, I think it is pretty clear that far the greater part of them, are more or less lulled into carelessness; or kept at ease in such a state, by the influence of this flattering persuasion: and is it not evident that many of them are the very sons of dissipation, rushing headlong into the pit of pollution ?
I would not bear too hard on any. I often fear that my own feet will yet slide, through want of due attention to that which only can preserve; but leaving that, with desires for my own preservation, and that of all mankind, I would just query, whether it is not certain that too many have visibly grown more openly profane and debauched, upon adhering to this plan? On the contrary, has ever one man, woman, or child, been reformed apon embracing it? Do not these things cast a dark shade over this system, and seem to stamp just obloquy upon it? I think the Indian's answer to one of these men, (and I think it was to one of their teachers,) worthy of serious regard. I have been informed that an Indian, after hearing much said in favour of this doctrine, wisely answered thus: “ I think my religion better than yours, for if mine fails me, yours will catch me; but if yours fails, you are lost forever," or words to this import. I would it might be duly regarded, lest presuming upon the cer. tainty of salvation, and the corruptions so often consequent upon that belief, cast away many a poor soul, at the great day, the time of final reckoning!
And here I believe I may properly address the libertines of our age, in the last words of Doctor Cheyne's Essay on Health and long Life. After describing the death of the sober and virtuous, and speaking of them as departing “in peace, as a lamp goes out for want of oil,” he concludes thus : “And let the gentlemen of zoit and fire, of banter and sneer, hug themselves ever so much in their boasted tranquillity and security; gratify their passions, appetites, and humours to the full; and despise futurity and whining - dare promise, when the farce is ended, and the last minutes are drawing on, they would prefer a life thus led,