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the same privileges and advantages ? or rather should you not think that he had juftly forfeited all pretensions to happiness ? On the other hand, if the wicked should turn away from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, should he continue fill in torment? Should not his iniquity be forgiven, and bis fin be reo membered no more? Should be not save his soul alive, and be plucked as a fire-brand out of the fire? This I conceive to be the true notion and representation of the eternity of rewards and punishments. Righteousness will be for ever happy and glorifed, wickeddess will be for ever miserable and cormented; but if righteousness fhould degenerate and become wickedness, or if wickedness should amend and become righteousness, the tables would then be turned, and with the change of their nature their state and condition would be cbanged too.
But it is commonly fopposed, that in the next life there can be no such changes ; every man's condition there is fixed and unalterable : (Ecclef. xi. 3.) “ In the place where the tree falleth, there fhall it be :” (Rev. xii. 11.) " He that is unjust will be unjust fill; and he that is filthy will be filthy ftill; and he that is righteous will be righteous ftill; and he that is holy will be "holy ftill.” But, potwithftanding the application of certain texts to this purpose, which have no such meaning, this opinion seemeth to be without any seal foundation in Scripture, or in the nature and reason of things. To suppose that a man's happiness or misery, to all eternity, thould absolately and unchangeably be fixed and determined, by the uncertain bebaviour of a few years in this life, is a supposition even more odreasonable and unnatural, than that a man's mind and manners should be completely formed and fashioned in his cradle, and his whole future fortune and condition Mould depend altogether upon bis infancy, infancy being much greater, in proportion to the few years of this life, than the whole of this life to eternity. This life is indeed a ftate of trial, but not a trial to fix our fate for ever, without any possibility of changing for better, or for worse, in the world to come : for if the righteous can be but righteous, and the wicked can be but wicked, and cannot act otherwise, there is an utter end of all freedom of will, and morality of action. Their virtue ceases to be virtue, and their fin is no longer fin. Here it is admitted, that we are free moral agents, and feel and enjoy our liberty; and Ihall we be deprived of this privilege bereafter, and be bound in the chains of fatal neceflity? It is most probable, indeed, that the righteous, living in so much greater light and knowledge, enjoying so many bleflings, and surrounded by so many good examples, will lie onder little or no temptation to fall from his righteousness; but, bowever, the thing is pollible ; for no creatures, of any rank or order, of any time or place, are absolutely infallible and impeccable. Perfect boliness belongeth to God alone. The Scripture assures os, ibat in the next life men will be made (Luke xx. 36.) “ equal unto Ebe angels ;” but angels, we know, have apoftatized and fallen ; and why, then, may not man, even when made “equal unto the angels?” For the same reason that the righteous may fall from his righteousness, the wicked may turn away from his wickedness; and this event appears much more probable than the other; for he is cerdiscourse unnecessary. In this treatise a memorable quotation is made from Sophocles, but without any reference to the place from whence it is taken ; which as my memory hath not served me to re. collect, so neither hath the most diligent search enabled me to find out. Authors should, in justice to themselves, as well as their read. ers, be more careful and correct in their quotations, especially when they allege them in proof of any particular point in question. The sense of the passage is to this effect : “ For we think that in hades, or the invisible itate, there are two paths, one the way of the just, and the other of the unjuft.”And afterwards, “ God will save all things, which before he had destroyed.”
• Of the sentiments of the Hebrew doctors we have some account in a Latin treatise, of the State of the Dead, written by Dr. Windet, a learned physician in the time of Charles II. In this case, as well as in others, you will find therein some doctors affirming, and others denying; but our business is with those only who are for mitigating the severity of endless torments. Rabbi Moses Almosny is cited for saying, Measure for Measure ; if any one shall greatly offend, he shall be be greatly punished, yet afterwards he fall obtain his rest.” R. Isaac Ben Arama asserts much the same thing in his commentary upon the Pentateuch. R. Jacob Chavif scruples not to say, “Somo there are who, after they have suffered punishment in bell, fall perhaps be thought worthy of the life of the world to come;" and he refers to some passages in the Psalms, in support of his assertion, R. Menachen, expounding 1 Sam. xxv, 29. conceives it to relate to the future conditions of the righteous and the wicked ; and concludes of the wicked, that “they shall be kept in chains till the time of their delivery shall come. In another place, speaking of the lower hell, he declares, that “the wicked shall remain there till their spots and stains are washed and cleansed away.” And in the apocryphal book of Enoch, express mention is made of " the finishing of everlasting punishment;" but that cannot be finished, which is truly and properly everlasting.
• Of the Christian Fathers, the mot celebrated patron of this dogtrine was the learned Origen, the Presbyter of Alexandria, the greatest fcholar, and ableft writer, in the third century after Christ; and the learned reader may save bimself the trouble of collecting his sentiments from the different parts of his works, by having recourse to Mons. Huer's Origeniana, wherein he may find a very ample and accurate account of the life, and the doctrines, and the writings, of this eminent Father. In treating of bis doctrines, he employs a whole dissertation on his notions of punilhments and rewards, and particularly, whether, and how he thought that an end would be put to the torments of the damned, and all things by restoration would become one in God. The first place occurs in the seventh homily on Leviticus, in which, discourling how the son can be said to be subject to the father, he asserts, that “when the Son Thall have confummated his work, and shall bave brought his whole creation to the height of perfection, then he himself shall be subject to the Father, that God may be all in all.” He subjoins, that's Chrift Mall thea drink wine in the kingdom of God, when all things shall be subjected to him; and all being faved, and the power of death being def
troyed, there shall be no more facrifice for fin." This subjection he explains after the same manner, in his third book of principles; and in. fers, that “as when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfeat reftitution of every creature is declared; so when the enemies of God are said to be subjected to the Son, the salvation of the subjected is understood by it, and the reparation of those who were deltroyed and loft.” A more illustrious proof is produced out of his book of Principles, from these texts of Scripture, (Psal. cx. 1.) “ The Lord said unto my Lord, fit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool ;" and (? Cor. xv. 24. 25.) " Then cometh che end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Facher ; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power : for he must reign till he hash put all enemies under his feet.” From these testimonies of Scripture he proveth, that the enemies of Christ being subdued, the goodness of God will recall every creature into one by the Son; by " subjeélion,” meaning, that by which adhering to Chrift we are made holy, and obtain salvation. Afterwards he demonstrates, that all things will be reitored into one, from this of Christ (John, xvii. 21, 22, 23.), “ That they all may be one, as chou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; and the glory which thou gaveft me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one ; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfed in one:" and from that of St. Paul (Eph. iv. 13.), « Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the Atature of the fulness of Chrift;" nor will the devils themselves be deprived of the benefit of this restitution. He confi. dered the fire of hell as expiatory and temporary, in which the fios of men were to be burnt and parged away ; and in his eighth book on the Epistle to the Romans, he says, “ But for how long a time this purgation by fire may be applied, and for how many ages it may torture finners, he alone can can know, to whom che Father hath committed all judgment."
• Monf. Huer, though a member and prelate of the Gallican churcb, not only represents Origen's opinions with great fairness and candour, but likewise, in some measure, excuses and jufifies him, by producing passages not very diffimilar from other ancient fathers. He begins with Justin Martyr, affirming, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, that at the time of judgment, those souls which appear worthy of God thall die no more ; but the rest shall be punished, as long as God thall please to continue their existence, and their puoishment. Jultin imagined, therefore, that a time might come when their punishment might cease. Irenæus is also cited for holding much the same doctrine. Gregory Nazianzen, in his 39th Oration, threatens the heretics with undergoing a difficult and long baptism of fire, unless they depart from their heresy, by which fire all wickedness, like so much stubble, will be burnt out of them. In the following oration he doubts, whether the torments of the damned will be everlasting, or whether it will be more humane and worthy of God to shorten them. Gregory Nyffen, without any doubting, embraces the opinion of Origen, in his discourse of the soul and the resurrection, in which he declares, that the souls of men, and devils also, shall, in time to come, laying aside all their vitio. fity, confess Cbrift: and, in another place of the same dissertation, he afferis, that God cannot otherwise be “ all in all,” according to the saying of the Apostle, than by destroying utterly and extirpating all wickedness. Moreover, in bis Catechetical Oration, chap. 8. he affirms, that after this life the evil affections of the mind thall be cured by God, which in this life could not be healed by virtue : then, chap. 26. he teaches, that not only wicked and impious men, but even the devil, the author of fin, thall be affected by the kind. ness of the Son of God, and be so purged and purihed, as gold is refined by the fire, the base metal being extracted and separated ; and at length, after a long course of time, all the evil that is in nature being consumed, the damned shall be restored whole and entire, that with one mouth all created things may return thanks to God. confirmed by the whole strain and tenor of Scripture, which breathes nothing but mercy and kindness, pity and forgiveness, to the fons of men. Texts innumerable might be cired and applied to this purpole; but weight is more to be regarded than number. Even in the Mofaical law, the Lord proclaims himfelf (Exod. xxxiv. 6.7.), “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long..fuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and cranfgrefion, and in.” Bút how can such attributes confitt with a system of irrevocable vengeance for thousands, tranfgreflions never to be forgiven, and tormenis never to have an end - In like manner the Pfalmiit declares (ciji. 8, 9.), “ The Lord is merciful and gracious, now to anger, and plenteous in merfy: he will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever.” And may we not, then, with justice apply the words of annother psalm (lxxxv. 5. 6.), “Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations ? Wilt thou not receive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?”- God doth not willingly grieve and afllict the chiidren of men; and therefore it is called by the prophet Isaiah (xxviii, 21.) “ his strange work, his strange act,” as if it was very uncommon and foreign to his nature. But with what propriety can that be denominated “ his strange work, his strange act,” which is wrought not in a few, but in abundance of instances, and is to continue not for a short period of time, but throughout all generations? “As I live, faith the Lord God," by the prophet Ezekiel (xxxiii. 11.), “ I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked curn from his way, and live." And can it be his will and pleasure that no wicked man Mould pesimh, but repent and live ; and yet be his will and pleasure, that so many of his creatures hould be reduced to a state of final impeni. tence, where they cannot turn and live, but must perish everlastingly?
• We may further add what Dr. Burnet, of the Charter house, hath cited from St. Jerome, who, though Tharp and vehement in his own nature, and a bitter enemy to Origen and his opinions, yet upon this topic expresses himself with uncommon temper and moderation. In the conclusion of his commentary upon the prophet Isaiah, speaking of everlasting punishments, and of those who thought, that after a long period of time an end would be put to them, he concludes, that " we must leave those things to the wisdom of God, whose judgments, as well as mercies, are distributed in exact weight and proportion, and who knoweth whom, and how, and how long, he ought to punish." He had asserted something of the same kind before in his commentary upon the xxivth chap:er, near the end ; “ We must know, that human weakness cannot comprehend the magnitude and measure of punishments, which must be left to the wise dom of God alone :” and in his commentary upon the ivth chapter to the Galatians, we find bim saying, that " no reasonable creature can perish with God for ever.” St. Austin, though a strenuous advocate for the eternity of punishments, denominates those of the contrary opinion merciful doctors; and therefore he, and those who think with him, as Dr. Burnet observes, may, by the rule of oppofite, be called unmerciful doctors. Several of the ancient fathers cone ceived the fire of hell to be a purging, as well as a penal fire, and consequently, some time or other, to have an end. But this penal, purging * fire is very different from the purgatory of the church of Rome; for that is not once mentioned in Scriprure, but this is often repeated; that occupies the interval between death and the resurrection, but this fucceeds after the general judgment,
I forbear to produce any modern authorities, though, perhaps, the modern may be as good, or better, than the ancient; but all au. thorities must bow down before Scripture : this is the only solid foundation of faith; this is the only sure anchor of hope. The leto ter of fcripture may, indeed, Tound forth everlasting punishments, but the spirit of Scripture intimates the contrary. How the letter is to be underttood, and in what sense the punishments are everlasting, we have already explained ; and this explanation will be molt amply
• But the great charter of universal redemption is the gospel, which will be found in the end, what it was proclaimed in the beginning (Luke, ii. 14.), “ Glory to God in the higheit, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” But what glory to God, to see a number of his creatures plunged in the depth of misery? What goodwill towards men, to confign so many of them to everlasting punish. Inents ?
• It is the declared end and purpose of our blesed Saviour's coming into the world, to recover and to redeem lolt mankind. “ The fon of man,” as he faith himself (Luke, xix. 10.), " is come to seek and to save that which was loft.” And shall the purpose of his coming be so far frustrated and defeated, as that the greater part of those whom he came to seek, and to save, shall be loft and undone for everi - How often is he stiled “the Saviour of the world,” in the full extent and meaning of the words ? (John, iii. 17.) “ God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (1 John, iv, 14.).“ We have seen, and do tellisy, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (i Tim. ii. 4.) “ God, will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (iv. 10.) He is the Saviour of all men, cspecially of those that believe.” (2 Pei. iii. 9.)