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    OTHER OBJECTIONS

    Having examined every important text that I know of, relied upon in the Bible to establish the common theory, I do not consider that my opponents have any claim upon me to answer other objections, not having their foundation in the Scriptures; as the book of God is the only infallible rule of faith. I have no fear, however, to meet and examine objections from other sources, and shall notice such as have come to my knowledge.SSII 74.8

    First, then, it is said, “The benevolence of God obliges him to inflict the greatest possible punishment, in order to deter men from sin.”SSII 75.1

    To say nothing of the absurdity of such a proposition, it is enough to reply, that the common sense of every enlightened and Christianized people, as well as their practice, condemns such a view of benevolence.SSII 75.2

    The Legislature of this State have enacted a law condemning the murderer to death. Suppose the judge, on the conviction of the criminal, should proceed to pronounce sentence, by saying - “You, the prisoner, are clearly convicted of the crime specified in the law; you are, therefore, to suffer the penalty, which is, that you be tortured over a slow fire - and to prevent your dying, an able and skillful physician will stand by you, with powerful remedies, to prevent the fire from causing death; but said fire is to be as terrible as it can possibly be made, and without intermission. In this manner you are to be tormented till death shall come upon you from some other cause; which, however, should never take place if we possessed power to prevent it!” And then suppose the judge should add: - “That is the penalty of the law under which you are now to suffer!”SSII 75.3

    I ask if all New York, yea, all the nation, and the civilized world would not be horror-struck by such a decision? Would not all conclude the judge was insane, and ought to be immediately removed from office? If he should attempt to justify himself, by showing that he had given a constitutional construction of the law of the State, would it not be thought that he was stark mad? And if he should succeed in establishing his position of the correctness of his decision, would not the whole State be in arms to alter or abolish such laws? and if they found that such a state of things was fastened upon them by some unalterable necessity, would not the State itself, with all its rich lands, be abandoned by its inhabitants, as some Sodom and Gomorrah that was nigh unto destruction?SSII 75.4

    If the case I have supposed differs from that attributed to God’s law, and the administration under it - upon the common theory of death signifying eternal sinning and suffering - then I confess myself incapable of seeing the difference, except it be in one point, viz: the judge spoken of has not power to protract the sufferings of the condemned person beyond a limited period; God has almighty and irresistible power in punishing.SSII 76.1

    If, as is contended, the greatest possible punishment is required by benevolence, to deter men from sin, why do we not see civilized nations adopting that principle in enacting their laws? The fact is, the legislation of all nations who acknowledge the Bible, gives the lie to such a theory. And how is it accounted for, I ask, that those nations, that are called “Christian nations,” have so far modified their laws as to be at an almost infinite remove from those called savage? Is it not because, though men have not in reality become Christians, yet the Bible has had such an influence on the mass of mind, that the conviction is almost universal among them, that no “cruel or unusual punishments” shall be “inflicted?” to use the language of the Constitution of the United States. I ask again, if this fact does not prove that the influence of the gospel is against the common theory of eternal misery? Or in other words, do not the principles of the gospel, carried out in practical life, give the lie to the theory I oppose?SSII 76.2

    Punishment in some form, to transgressors, all admit is requisite to maintain government. But let us inquire what is the design of punishment? It may be said to consist mainly in two particulars, viz: 1st. To prevent the recurrence of crime on the part of the transgressor; and 2nd. To deter others from the commission of crime.SSII 77.1

    Let me now ask, It is necessary that the impenitent sinner should live in a state of eternal sin and suffering to prevent the recurrence of sin on his part? This will not be pretended by any sane man. So far from it, the advocates of the theory I oppose, maintain, that the sinner will be eternally sinning, and eternally being punished for those sins; which, however, neither does nor can produce reformation; nor, in fact, is it designed to. Upon the common theory, then, sin and the works of the devil never will be destroyed, and the punishment does not answer the end of punishment, in preventing the recurrence of crime; for it will be eternally recurring. But if the sinner is actually destroyed, and ceases to be, there is an effectual prevention of the recurrence of sin, on the part of the transgressor.SSII 77.2

    If, then, the end of punishment is answered, so far as the sinner is concerned, by his utter destruction, and cannot be by the opposite theory, let us now inquire whether the eternal conscious existence of the sinner in torments, is necessary to deter others from sin? To suppose that it is, is to suppose that the inhabitants of heaven are kept in subjection to God, on the same principle that slave-drivers keep their slaves to their toil, i.e., by the terror of the lash, or some other fearful torture. No such principle, I apprehend, will be needed in the presence of God and the Lamb - and that, too, after our state of trial is over for ever, and the righteous are crowned with eternal life, and made kings and priests unto God, to reign for ever and ever, filled with unmeasured consolation, and surrounded by immeasurable glory.SSII 77.3

    Besides, if the wicked are all destroyed, and mingle no more with the righteous for ever, the greatest temptation to sin is removed. The past recollection of evil will be all-sufficient to prevent sin, even on the supposition that it were possible for temptation to arise, which is not likely when the righteous dwell in the immediate presence of God and the Lamb, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for ever more. Surely there can be no need, to persons thus situated, to listen to the groans of the damned, and gaze on their torments to keep them in obedience. The thought to me, is little short of blasphemy.SSII 78.1

    But, the notion that benevolence requires the greatest possible punishment to be inflicted, is expressly contradicted by the Bible. Our Lord Jesus Christ informs us that some “shall be beaten with few stripes.” Of course the greatest possible punishment is not inflicted, but only such as is necessary to secure the honor of a violated law, and answer the end of government.SSII 78.2

    It is said, “sin is an infinite evil, and therefore the sinner must have an infinite punishment.” And I ask, if it may not be said, in an important sense, that that punishment, from which a sinner never recovers, is infinite? But how is it proved that sin is an infinite evil, which is committed by a finite being in time? The answer is, it is committed against an infinite God. I reply, that, upon the same principle, a punishment inflicted upon a finite being, in a limited time, is an infinite punishment, because inflicted by an infinite Being.SSII 79.1

    Again, it is objected to my views, that “it is no punishment at all.” “If,” continues the objector, “the wicked are to be struck out of being, it is quick over, and that is the end of it.”SSII 79.2

    The man who can make such an objection as this, gives sad evidence that he is sinking below the brute creation, in his sensibilities; for a brute makes every effort to live, or protract its life as long as possible. Besides, he manifests that he has no clear conception of the value of life: he, in fact, tells his Maker that he does not thank Him for life. But does the objector really feel that what he says is true? Is it nothing to die - to be cut off from life - to perish “like a beast” - to lose that which may be filled up with unmeasured and unending enjoyment? Is all this nothing? Is it no punishment? If so, in the objector’s mind, I repeat it, he is already too degraded in the scale of being to be expected ever to rise above a mere animal. His case is exceedingly hopeless. He may count himself a Christian, but I fear he is ignorant of the grand principle which characterizes such, viz: love to God. If be possessed that, death - to cease eternally from conscious being - would be to his mind the most tremendous punishment. The advantage of teaching this punishment, is, it is something definite to the mind; and therefore more likely to influence a rational being, than a punishment of which he can have no clear conception, and the justice of which does not commend itself to the human understanding.SSII 79.3

    Henry, in his Commentary, says - “By the damnation of the wicked the justice of God will be eternally satisfying, but never satisfied.SSII 80.1

    This doctrine is undoubtedly correct, on the supposition that the common theory is true; but it represents God as incapable of satisfying his justice, or as wanting in a disposition to do so. Either of these positions, one would suppose, are sufficiently absurd to be rejected by a reflecting mind.SSII 80.2

    The penalty of God’s law is something to be inflicted, or it is not; if it is not to be inflicted, then men may not be punished at all for their sins; but if it is to be inflicted on the impenitent, then it cannot be eternal sin and suffering; for in that case, it would only be inflicting but never inflicted; indeed, in that way justice could not be said to be even satisfying; for that cannot be said to be satisfying that is never to be satisfied; that is a plain contradiction. Could a man be said to be satisfying his hunger if it was impossible ever to satisfy it? Or again, is the “grave” satisfying, of which the wise man says, that it is “never satisfied?”SSII 80.3

    Benson, the Methodist commentator, outstrips Henry. So far from the justice of God making any approach towards satisfying itself, according to Benson, the sinner outstrips justice in the race. Speaking of the damned, he says: - “They must be perpetually swelling their enormous sum of guilt, and still running deeper, immensely deeper, in debt to divine and infinite justice. Hence, after the longest imaginable period, they will be so far from having discharged their debt - that they will find more due than when they first began to suffer.”SSII 80.4

    How much glory such a theory reflects upon the infinite God, I leave others to judge. The same Benson says in another place - “Infinite justice arrests their guilty souls, and confines them in the dark prison of hell, till they have satisfied all its demands by their personal sufferings, which, alas! they can never do.”SSII 81.1

    So, it seems, the Great and Infinite Being is perfectly incapable of obtaining satisfaction to his justice! But I will not dwell upon this point.SSII 81.2

    I will call your attention to one thought more before I close this discourse. Are we to suppose that the Creator of all men will inflict a punishment on men of which he has given them no intimation? For example - wicked men who have not revelation to unfold the unseen world. Are we to believe that they are to be punished by being plunged into a state of necessary sin and eternal suffering? a state of which they had never heard?SSII 81.3

    They have had no intimation of eternal conscious being in misery. They know there is misery, for they experience it, but they have always seen misery terminate in death. Of misery followed by death, they have something more than intimation; but of eternal suffering they can have no idea. No - nor can we, who have that doctrine taught us by ministers. We can have no idea of a life of misery that never results in death. We may have illustrations given us, but they cannot touch it, and no finite mind can have any conception of it; this is evident from the illustrations used to attempt to describe it; for example - Benson after painting the unutterable miseries of the damned, till his own soul chills with horror, and his “heart bleeds,” thus attempts to describe the duration of that misery:SSII 81.4

    “Number the stars in the firmament, the drops of rain, sand on the sea shore; and when thou hast finished the calculation, sit down and number up the ages of woe. Let every star, every drop, every grain of sand, represent one million of tormenting ages. And know that as many more millions still remain behind, and yet as many more behind these, and so on without end.”SSII 82.1

    Now I ask if any definite idea is conveyed to the mind by such an illustration? And if not, what influence can it have upon men? If it produces any action, it must be as lacking in definiteness as the ideas that possess the mind.SSII 82.2

    Tell a man of something concerning which he can form a definite idea, and it must have more influence upon him. Tell him he is dying, perishing - really, actually, literally, not figuratively perishing: of that he can form some idea, and hence, it will be more likely to move him to right action, than that of which he can have no such definite knowledge.SSII 82.3

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