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“ How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and arenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" (Rev. vi. 10.)
In conclusion I remark, that if there be no judgment after death, then the saviour's momentous question, relative to the worth of the soul, is a grave burlesque : nothing more. • What shall it profit a man," he asks, “ if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soal, or what shall he give in exchange for his soul !" And what renders this question more awfully momentous is, that it is propounded in immediate connexion with the declaration, " For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works." (Mat. xvi. 27.)
ARGUMENT IN THE NEGATIVE. It may seem an act of great temerity on my part, my auditors, to attempt maintaining the negative of "... question against such an array of argument, and evidence, as has been adduced on the other side : more especially as your education, and long habits of thinking, upon this subject, must necessarily bias your minds against the object of that attempt; nevertheless, a firm conviction that the doctrine of a general judgment after death is a mere bug-bear, without any real countenance from reason or the bible; and injurious in its influences upon mankind, imposes upon me the duty of undertaking its refutation : give me but your candid attention and I can promise myself success.
Ist.-You were told that the wicked do not relish this doctrine. Perhaps not; but I know of no particular reasons why they should object to it. On the contrary, I should think that they find it sufficiently convenient; it puts off the day of reckoning to a conveniently distant time, and represents its decisions as sufficiently uncertain; and this tends to set their consciences well at ease until the moment of danger is conceived to have nearly arrived; then comes in the expedient of repentance, just in season to ward the long-suspended stroke of justice! The anecdote of the Irishman who stole a pig, (whether truth or fiction) well illustrates this point : when told he would have to answer for it at the day of judgment, he replied, “ Och! but had I known you would wait so long, I would have taken two of them !"*
It is true, as my opponent remarked, that by the terrors of that expected day, the dying sinner has often been induced to make a clean breast,” by confession; and that ill-gotten hoards have been wrenched from the hands of avarice and extortion_but what then ? Have the robbed and the oppressed been benefited by these fits of remorse ? No such thing; they have served for the founding of churches, or of convents, or for the enriching of ecclesiastics, but rarely indeed have they brought reparation to the injured. On the other hand, what a fearful engine of mischief has this doctrine proved in the hands of wily priests ! with what terrific phantoms has it peopled the dreaded future! And how dense a darkness has it shed upon man's dying hour! Often, and often, by its means, has the ghostly counsellor at the bed of death, wrung 'from the fears of the dying man the savings of a life of industry, which ought to have gone to his widow and her orphan children. Indeed, with such frequency has this case transpired, that it has been found necessary by enlightened legislators, to make, by statute, bequests of this nature invalid. Wicked men averse to the doctrine of a judgment after death! Not they indeed; they are prone enough to “put the evil day afar off :" the cheek of the hardy mariner is blanched with dismay, and the prayer of agony quavers on his lips, when his storm tossed vessel seems on the point of being ingulfed in the troubled element beneath him: but the danger passed, he laughs at his fears, and blasphemes the name of God without compunction.
2ud. If there is to be no judgment after death, my friend thinks, the bible may be dispensed with! its main business being, as he thinks, to prepare men against that event! There is a marvelous issue between us, then, upon this point. I hold the main business of the bible to be the preparing us for this life—its duties, and sufferings—and to reconcile us to its sorrows by revealing the joys that await us in another—it tells of God, and of ourselves of our relations to him and to each other and it shows us that a conformity to the obligations which these relations impose, presents the surest prospect of happiness. How many of mankind, I pray, are prepared by the bible against a future day of judgment ?
3rd.—He quotes us the poet, who in a strain of extravagance which prose would never countenance, calls the fancied era of the judgment, the
« Great day, for which all other days were made."
I must think that the Creator was poorly employed if he made all other days for the sake of such a season of ruin, confusion, madness and misery, as we are apt to imagine that day of judgment will prove! It is little short of blasphemy to charge him with so flagrant an outrage upon justice and benevolence. Truth is, that however this doctrine may serve to furnish images of terror and grandeur to the bard, it will illy endure the investigation of sober inquiry.
41h.The main argument from reason for a future judgment, is, that providence is not just in its present dispensations! Such is really the substance of the argument! It is pretended that a suitable distinction is not maintained betwixt the righteous and the wicked. This is a grave charge against the Governor of the universe; and, if true, I should doubt his disposition to administer its atlairs at any future time more justly than he does at present. Convince me that my maker can do what is wrong, or omit to do what is right, at one time, and I shall at once despair of his doing other vise at any time! Now the nature of the case would be materially altered, if it could be made to appear, that from these present irregularities some great and glorious result should ensue-a result consistent with the eventual good of the entire mass of his creatures; but a mal-administration of affairs which shall issue so disastrously to millions of millions, cannot by any sophistry be vindicated; nor can we ever rationally expect the interests of the governed to be safer in the same hands.
But tell me now, ye who can look over the world with an eye of candid observation, are not the distinctions of condition betwixt the good and the bad, as broad as are the distinctions of character ? You must, at least, acknowledge that the latter are not as wide as the difference between unending bliss and unending woe you must even allow, that if it were attempted to sever these classes from each other, it would be difficult to determine in regard to an immense majority of mankind, whether to rank them amongst the righteous or the wicked, so nearly balanced are their good and evil traits of character! Now, in regard to these, what shall be done ? Shall we, whilst we allow them no reward for their good qualities, eternally damn them for their evil ones ? This would seem a very unjust measure; and yet it is the very
measure which the common doctrine of a judgment after death contemplates !
We see not, as sees the all-seeing God : he saw Montezuma, for example, suffering under the cruelties of Cortez: perhaps also he had oft seen others suffering under the cruelties of Montezuma, and in that case the sufferings of the latter were but a just measure of retribution. " But Adoni-bezek fled : and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table : as I have done, so God hath requited
And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.” (Judges i. 6, 7.) Yet we are told that men are not judged and punished here ; for if here, why again hereafter ?
And may not Charles XII. Cromwell, and Napoleon, have been mere scourges in the hands of providence ? Many wise and good men have so regarded them, and with the evil they each did, much good was accomplished also. Governor Hastings may have been a tyrant or not: he has been differently, oppositely, represented. Supposing he was, and that God shall eternally damn hiin, agreeably to the Indian princess' requirement; will his damnation repair the wrongs he did in life ? or will iis only purpose be revenge? But then, another difficulty occurs ; agreeably to the doctrine under review, the victims of the tyrant are as liable to unending woe as is the tyrant himself! Still another, after despatching his victims to hell the latter may have himself repented and gone to heaven! I see not, then, if even there shall be a judgment after death, how it is to repair the evils of life, or make amends for the mal-administrations of providence during time!
5th. It is commonly supposed that we go at death immediately to heaven or to hell : this being the case, where is the necessity for a general judgement? Is it to enable the Omniscient Being to review his foriner decisions? May he have committed mistakes which this rejudication will enable him to correct? Or is this first commitment to the prison of the universe upon a suspicion of guilt merely, and the business of the judgment to refute or confirm that suspicion ? A more solemn mockery than this same fancied judgment was never conceived. A pageant, suitable enough as a subject of poetry, or of popular declamation,
but how absurd ; yea ridiculous, (sublimely so, however,) when the infinite Jehovah is represented as collecting around him the people of a hundred centuries, that, either he may correct his mistakes, or convince them that he has made none! Really, for plain and honest prose this is most insufferable stuff!
6th.--But let us to the scriptures and carefully attend to their testimony upon this head. It is not to be doubted that they speak of several days of judgment, and hours of judgment also. the day of judgment to the old world when its destruction came upon it. It was Sodom's day of judgment when it was destroyed by fire from heaven. Peter evidently speaks of the time of the latter visitation under this appellation, for he adduces the facts of Lot's deliverance, and the overthrow of the Sodomites, as an evidence, “ that the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Pet. ii. 9.) And the same writer speaks of a day of judgment which was at hand when he sent his epistles to the churches : “ for,” he saith, “ the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God.” (1 Pet, iv. 17.) Even Dr. Clarke admits this as referring to the retributions then impending over the Jewish people.
And now, my hearers, notice well the following passage, which identifies the time of the judgment with that of the introduction of christianity. “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Rev. xiv. 6, 7.)
My friend's indirect proofs of a general judgment require, I think, but a glance, in order to their turning out no proofs at all. The first of them is a threat against such cities as should refuse to receive the apostles of Christ." 66 It shall be inore tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment than for that city.” Is it not too manifest for argument, that nothing more is here meant than that in the time of visitation, it should
harder with that city than it had with Sodom and Gomorrah ? The