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been one continued scene of unhappiness? It is because the natu ral tendency of vice is to misery.
9. It is contrary to the plain declarations of the word of God. (1.) This theory says, God does not judge mankind in this world. The Bible declares, “Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.' And again, “I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness, in the earth." Ps. 58: 11; Jer. 9: 24.
(2.) It declares that there is no reward for virtue, nor punishment for vice, in this world. But the Bible says, "Verily there is a reward for the righteous." Again, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner." Ps. 58: 11; Prov. 11: 31.
(3.) It teaches that it is a matter of perfect indifference, so far as our present happiness or misery is concerned, what course we pursue. But the Bible informs us that "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Prov. 3: 7. The objector may say, "This is undoubtedly true of wisdom's ways, but it is just as true of the ways of folly." To this we reply that the Bible, in strong contrast with this, says of the wicked, "Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known." Rom. 3: 16, 17.
(4.) It promises equal happiness to the righteous and wicked in this world. But the Scriptures tell us, "Great peace have they who love thy law." Ps. 119: 165. It may be said, "This is true of the righteous, but it is equally true of the wicked." We answer the Bible affirms "There is no peace to the wicked." Isa. 48: 22.
(5.) It promises a way of escape from just punishment to the sinBut God says he "will by no means clear the guilty.' Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” Exod. 34: 7; Prov. 11: 21.
(6.) It teaches that it is a matter of no consequence, so far as this life is concerned, whether the intellectual and moral faculties of man are under the guidance, control and direction, of the animal propensities, or whether the passions and propensities are governed by the intellect and morals. But the Bible teaches that "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Rom. 8: 6.
10. It comes in contact with farts which are plainly and explic
itly stated in the Bible. The Bible abounds with instances of divine punishment inflicted in this life. In Section III. of this Chapter we have collected thirty instances of this kind; and these comprise but a small portion out of the vast number that are recorded in the Scriptures. It has been stated that "although God does sometimes see fit to pour out his judgments upon nations and communities in their collective capacity, yet he never metes out retributive justice to single individuals." This is not true. Out of the instances collected, referred to above, twenty-three cases are those of individuals. It is a fact, then, that mankind are rewarded and punished in this life. Of course the doctrine of no retribution in this world falls to the ground.
Such are our objections to the doctrine of retribution in another world for deeds performed in this life. We will now take the following position. MANKIND ARE REWARDED AND PUNISHED IN THIS LIFE. This position we sustain by the following arguments:
1. From the justice of God. God's justice is active. Like all the other attributes of the Deity, it is an operative principle. We might as well suppose that power, that benevolence, or love, could lay perfectly dormant and inactive in the Deity, as to suppose this of justice. The highest exercise of justice consists in suitably and equitably rewarding and punishing all moral agents according to their works. Justice requires that the virtuous be rewarded, at the time when, and in the place where, they are virtuous; and that the vicious be punished at the time, and in the place, where they are vicious. If, therefore, the justice of God is an active principle, mankind are as much rewarded and punished here as they ever will be. It follows, from this argument, that if mankind, or any portion of them, practise vice in a future state of existence, they will be punished there; but then, it will not be for sins committed here, but for sins committed there. If there are any who suppose that vice will be practised in the spiritual world, it belongs to them to prove it. The question whether vice will be practised there does not belong to our present subject.
2. From the nature of God's moral government. That man is subject to certain laws, and that these laws were instituted by the Creator, will not be disputed. Well, what was the design of God in instituting these laws? Was it to promote his own happiness, or to add to his glory? Surely this will not be pretended. For God
is now, and always has been, infinitely glorious. His glory, there. fore, cannot be increased nor diminished. He is perfectly happy in and of himself; yea, infinitely happy "in his own immortality." In giving laws to man, then, he designed the good of man. His laws, therefore, must be founded in the very nature and fitness of things. They must be based in the very nature and constitution of man. They must be designed to point out to man the course which he ought to pursue, in order to secure to himself the greatest amount of happiness; and the course which he ought to avoid, if he would avoid his own misery. Hence, misery must be connected with the violation of these laws, and happiness with their observance. It is in this sense that God has connected happiness with virtue, and misery with vice. It is in this sense that punishment treads close upon the heels of transgression. It is in this sense that virtue is its own reward, and vice its own punishment.
3. From the history of mankind. No one acquainted with the history of the human race, need be told that the historic page abounds with instances of the displays of God's retributive justice. Tyrants and oppressors may have flourished and prospered for a while, and to all outward appearance may have been happy. But their own confessions have revealed the fires which raged within, and the torments which reigned in their bosoms. And sooner or later their violence, their cruelties and their oppressions, have been visited upon their own heads. The description of such, given by the Psalmist, is true to the letter. "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like the green bay-tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." Nations may have been cruel and oppressive, and may have risen to great power and worldly grandeur by such means; but it was only to receive a more tremendous fall, and to experience the mortification and shame of being in their turn the down-trodden and the oppressed. All of which verifies the truth of the proverb, "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." Prov. 14: 34; Ps. 37: 35, 36.
4. From the observation and experience of mankind. objections to the doctrine of future retribution. Obj. 7 and 8.
5. From the direct and positive testimony of the Bible. See objections as above. Obj. 9. Specifications 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
We will now notice the objections to the doctrine of retribution in this life. It is objected,
6. From facts which are clearly stated in the Bible. jections as above. Obj. 10.
1. "That the pious and virtuous are frequently unfortunate, and sometimes miserable, in this world." This is undoubtedly true; but, we ask, are the virtuous miserable and unfortunate because they are virtuous? In other words, do they suffer the penalty of God's moral law? This will not be pretended. But if they do not, then their miseries must be attributed to some other cause. This leads us to remark, that man is governed by three different sets of laws. He is a physical, intellectual, and moral being; and is governed by physical, intellectual, and moral laws. These laws operate separately and independently of each other. If man obeys the physical laws, he will receive the reward of health and physical enjoyment. If the intellectual, he will experience intellectual enjoyment. If the moral, he will enjoy that happiness which flows from the exercise of the moral faculties. If he obeys them all, he will derive pleasure and satisfaction from each of these sources; and experience all the happiness which is allotted to a human being. It must also be remembered that mankind, both good and bad, are subject to various evils and misfortunes, which are not of our own procuring, which cannot be warded off, and which cannot be considered as the penalty of any law whatever. If these facts are constantly borne in mind, they will serve to explain all the seeming discrepancy in the administration of rewards and punishments. Again, mankind are extremely liable to be deceived and mistaken in their judgment on this subject. It may be well for us to mention the several grounds of deception. 1. They may be deceived by the pretensions and professions of men. man who professes to be virtuous, who really is so. case that those who profess the most religion have the least; and those who profess none at all have the most. If, therefore, mankind calculate the deserts of their fellow-men by their professions, they will often judge a man to be deserving of reward when he is not and another to be deserving of punishment when he is not. Cer tainly, we cannot expect that God will bend himself to the notions of such concerning justice. 2. Mankind are liable to be mistaken in their estimate of the amount and extent of the guilt of their
It is not every
It is often the
fellow-men. All men are not equally guilty for committing the Two men may commit the same act, and one may be greatly guilty, and the other not guilty at all. There are different degrees of responsibility or accountability. In relation to the physical and intellectual laws, it is, perhaps, strictly true that ignorance of those laws excuses no man. That is, man will suffer the consequences of disobeying them, whether he has a knowledge of their existence or not. But in relation to the moral laws, ignorance of them, where that ignorance is not voluntary, dos excuse a man to some extent at least. We may, then, greatly err in calculating the guilt of our fellow-men. God only knows the heart. He only knows to what extent men are guilty. He only knows how much of reward or punishment his creatures are deserving of; and we have no reason to expect that he will dispense his rewards and punishments to suit our views of what justice requires. 3. Mankind may be deceived by their own estimate of themselves. They may think themselves deserving of reward when they are not, and undeserving of punishment when in fact they deserve it. They may be ignorant of the physical laws, and live in the habitual violation of them, and not know it. They may think themselves perfectly guiltless for so doing, and they may be so; but the consequences will be precisely the same. They must suffer pain, sickness and disease. They may form a wrong estimate of what constitutes virtue, and think they are practising it, when they are not. In this case, although they may look for reward, they will not receive it, for they do not deserve it. This was the case with the ancient Pharisees. They made religion consist in the practice of forms and ceremonies. These they faithfully performed, and judged themselves to be very pious, holy and virtuous men. But if the testimony of Jesus is to be credited, they were very far from righteousness; and although they judged themselves deserving of reward yet they were not.
Now, in reference to those who profess to be virtuous, are esteemed to be such by their fellow-men, and yet are miserable and unhappy; for instance, suffer pain, sickness, and all the deprivations. consequent upon ill health. It may be that their misfortunes are of that kind to which all are liable, and from which none are entirely exempt. Perhaps they have inherited a bad constitution. In that case, it is their misfortune and not their fault. It may be they have