« VorigeDoorgaan »
he has, whether that hope is well or ill founded. If, then, the doctrine affords no ground of hope, it can be no source of joy to him. Besides; we have always thought that Jesus Christ and him crucified, was both the foundation of true hope, and source of joy to people in this world. We never understood, that the certainty of hell being a place of endless misery, was set forth in Scripture as the ground of hope, or source of our joy. The apostle, Gal. ii. 26. says: "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." But I ask, did the apostle ever say, that the life he now lived in the flesh, he lived by the faith that hell was a place of endless misery, either as a ground of his hope or source of his joy? Or did he ever say, that Christ loved him and gave himself for him, to save him from the punishment of this place? He joyed in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not find that hell torments were a source of joy, either to him or to any one else. It could not be so; for none of the apostles ever spoke of hell as being a place of endless misery. We then ask, how this doctrine can be to any a better doctrine to live by than mine? When, or by whose authority did it become so eminently fitted to live by? We ask further, in what way is it better fitted to live by than mine, if the persons who profess it derive neither hope nor joy from it? I ought to allow, perhaps, that it does afford a selfish joy to some, that they are secure from the torments of hell, while such multitudes are doomed to suffer its punishment forever. This, we presume, is all the joy which this doctrine affords, and we ought to call it any thing but Christian joy. But as neither of these are likely to be urged why the doctrine of eternal torments is better fitted to live by than mine, I observe
3d, That it is considered better to live by than my doctrine, as it is a better preservative against a licentious life, and a more powerful motive to holiness. This, I presume, is the ground on which the doctrine of eternal misery is counted the best of the two to live by. Is this then true? We think we have said enough in answering the first objection, to prove that it is not. We shall however add the following remarks here, to show that it cannot be true. We ask, then,-Is love or terror the most powerful principle to stimulate to a cordial and universal obedience? Let both Scripture and every day's experience decide in this case. Will any man affirm that the obedience required of us, and taught in Scripture, is there held forth as an obedience induced by the terror of hell torments? No; it is the obedience of gratitude and love. Terror may overawe, and frighten men to comply with many things to which their hearts are totally averse. It is love which sweetly constrains, not only to external obedience, but to the obedience of the heart and affections. But what does experience and daily observation teach concerning this? Who, that is acquainted with the history of the world, or with human nature, will say, that terror of the most horrid punishments, has been found efficacious in producing a cordial obedience in any grade or department of human society? So much are legislators and others convinced to the contrary, that in many places they are altering their code of laws, respecting the severity of human punishments. We then ask, in what respect the doctrine of eternal misery is better fitted to live by than my doctrine, if it affords no hope nor joy,to those who believe it, and is not a proper inducement to a holy life in the world? Let the objector point out, if he can, its preferable nature, and show wherein it consists. My doctrine is, that God never threatened men with eternal torments in
hell, that he never made any such revelation to the world, but that he sent his Son to make reconciliation for transgressors and to save them from their sins. That this doctrine is better fitted to live by, as to hope, joy, and obedience, we should deem it a waste of time particularly to point out. If my doctrine be true, as to these things, compared with its opposite, it is like the joy of noon day, to the gloom of midnight. We think it will not be disputed, that if my sentiments are Scriptural, all anxious fears about eternal misery are at once removed; a foundation of hope and source of joy to men laid open, which are calculated to animate and console the mind, under every trouble of this world; and motives to gratitude and obedience to God presented, which the doctrine of eternal misery certainly does not afford. It, on the other hand, fills the mind with gloom and anxiety, it leads to views of God not very favourable to his character, nor much calculated to make men love and serve him. We may indeed hope in his mercy revealed in the gospel through Jesus Christ, and may have joy in believing that we shall escape the torments of hell. But that the best of men have been still haunted with fears and anxieties, notwithstanding this, will not be denied. That this has been their state of mind, in regard to their own personal safety from hell, is what we might expect; but they have been also perplexed and distressed, as we think every good man must be, about the eternal condition of all their fellow creatures. We pity the man, who, if he thinks himself safe from this place of torment, feels little or no concern for the unnumbered millions of men like himself, all equally interested in the decision of this all important question.
Let us now consider how the doctrine of eternal misery is better fitted than my sentiments, to die by. This doctriue cannot be better than mine to die by,
from its being at this period a better preservative from sin, and a better motive to holiness to the individual, for he is just leaving this world, where this can alone operate as a motive to obedience. It must, then, be better to die by than mine.
1st, As a ground of hope in death. Now we ask, what ground of hope it can afford to any man at death, to think that the doctrine of eternal misery is true? Can he look on his wicked wife, and still more wicked children, and neighbours, around him, in the hour of death, and make their eternal misery a foundation of hope for his own eternal blessedness? Can the certainty of their eternal misery afford him any certain hope of his own safety? Can he die with a more joyful hope because their misery is to have no end?
2d, As a source of joy and consolation in death. But to which of the saints of old shall we refer, to find that the doctrine of endless misery to all the wicked, was any source of joy to them when about to leave this world? Can any thing like this be found in all the book of God? What name ought even a joy of this kind to receive, if it was possessed? But we do not think this doctrine does afford any joy in death to the person dying, either concerning himself or those he is about to leave. We rather think, that the doctrine at this hour, is often to the believers of it themselves, rather a source of pain and uneasiness. Should their hopes of heaven be such as to banish all fear for themselves, it often proves a source or misery to them, in regard to the friends and relations they leave behind. This, we think, will not be disputed. Now, allowing that my doctrine is true and the objector's false, how different would be the state of mind in which people would bid a last adieu to friends and relations, yea, to all the world. He and they must part, and truly such separations are often heart rending scenes. My doctrine, if true, it is ea
sily perceived, is here a healing balm, for it is only a momentary, not an eternal separation. But the opposite doctrine adds pungency to every parting pang, and the only consolation it affords to the dying saint, with regard to many of his relatives, is, that he shall have the pleasure of viewing from heaven, their torments in hell forever. Let us suppose ourselves by the bed of a dying person, and hear him say that he was full of hope and joy, arising from his belief in the eternity of hell torments; and that in heaven the torments of his relations, friends and neighbours, would give him pleasure forever. I ask, what would we think of such a person? It would certainly be but charity to believe that he was disordered in his mind. If we did not, we should conclude that some evil spirit possessed him, and that in this state of mind he was very unfit for heaven.
To conclude. We are either too blind, or too perverse, to perceive how the objector can prove that his doctrine is a good doctrine, either to live or to die by. We should be glad to see it shown, if it can be done, how eternal misery in hell can be to any man a good doctrine, in life, or at death; in time or in eternity.
It is a very popular objection brought against my views of Gehenna,-"If you are correct, we must believe that the most learned, and good men, yea, most Christians, for a great many ages, have been in a great error. Do you think yourself wiser than any of them?" See some remarks in answer to this objection, p. 197, 198. In further answer to this objection, let it be remarked
1st, That I make no pretensions to superior learning, or wisdom, or goodness, about this. I only profess to have paid some attention to the Scriptures on this particular point, which those persons, taking the subject for granted, have inadvertently overlooked.