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heaven against men : for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt. xxiii. 13.) These are but a specimen of very many proofs, that by the kingdom of God, and of heaven, is meant, the gospel institution in the world ; when it was about to be ushered in, men were told that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, &c. Now, it has long been the prevalent error with christians, in regard to this subject, that they have confounded this kingdom with that of celestial glory beyond the grave. Nicodemus was a Jew; his habits, and modes of thinking, his prejudices, were all Jewish; he was told that in order to become a subject of the gospel institution, he “must be born again,” must undergo a moral renovation, must cease to act, and think, and worship as a Jew, and begin anew to graduate in the science of religion at the feet of Christ. An individual who has had his birth and education, and spent a considerable part of his life in a despotic country, must needs be born again ere he can appreciate the blessings of a free government. A person in a savage state is not prepared to be ushered at once into civilized life; he must first be prepared for the transition by an education of his mind, sentiments, and habits. So it is in regard to religion; ere we can appreciate the blessings of the gospel kingdom, we must obtain a mastery over our evil passions and appetites; we must cultivate and cherish those dispositions and tempers which will assimilate us to Jesus Christ; we must cease to do evil and learn to do well. Paul saith truly, that no murderer, fornicator, or the like, can inherit the kingdom of God; this truth was new to such as had been converted to the belief in Christ, from the various heathen superstitions ; they had been accustomed to regard many vices as not only consistent with religion, but as actual virtues. I need not inform my intelligent readers that the very worship of most of the pagan deities was often associated with acts of a most vicious and repulsive nature. In reading the apostolic epistles, we find they had much trouble to indoctrinate the early converts into the knowledge of that pure and elevated system of faith and morals, which constituted the religion of Christ, the kingdom of God, or of heaven, into which nothing that is unclean, or unholy, can enter; which is as chaste “as a bride adorned for her husband." We may easily comprehend, then, (without supposing a caution against universalism to be intended,) why Paul warned
the Corinthians against the delusive supposition, that the unrighteous could inherit the kingdom of God; as though he had said, “ Be not deceived on this head, my brethren ; christianity is quite a different institution from those of which you were formerly the sobjects; they allowed in you many things which are wicked and abominable, but it requires in its subjects the utmost attainable purity of thought, of conversation, of life; and it utterly refuses to lend its countenance to any thing of a contrary nature."
But here arises a question. “ Since such are the requirements of Christ's kingdom on earth, can we reasonably expect that the unrighteous will be admitted into that more glorious kingdom in heaven?" No. Neither can we reasonably expect that the utmost boliness to which we can attain while we inherit flesh and blood, will qualify us for admission there; if divine grace must needs effect a preparation in the worst of sinners for that blest abode, so must it also in the best; let the christian who has the immodesty to question this, learn to know himself better. Is he never sensible to the presence of anger in his bosom? of envy, jealousy, discontent, revenge, malice? Does he think to carry these dispositions to heaven with him? How much difference in these respects, on a candid comparison of himself with others, (some there undeniably is, but how much ?) does he find in his own favor? It is quite a plain case that the christian needs a preparation for heaven as well as the sinner; the difference is, that in the former it is begun on earth, in the latter it is not; but to infinite grace the counteraction of the greatest guilt is equally possible as that of the least.
To speak of salvation to an individual in a state of guilt, is to speak nonsense; it is an absurdity in terms, fcr what is salvation but a deliverance from guilt; saved from it, we are saved from misery, (moral misery I mean,) for where guilt is, and there only, is misery-in the heaven of heavens as in the heart of hell. Let none charge us, then, with the teaching that all mankind are to be made happy in heaven without a previous preparation for it We differ from others in believing that all will eventually be so prepared; some of those to whom Paul wrote, had been such char. acters as he specifies as not admissible to the church or kingdom of Christ; but they had ceased from their former evil practices, and bad become the denizens of that kingdom. (1 Cor. vi. 11.):
A METAPHYSICAL ARGUMENT FOR ENDLESS MISERY
Sometime since I attended divine service at the Second Presbyterian church, Cincinnati, and heard a discourse from the pastor, Dr. Beecher. Its subject was the reasonableness of endless misery, and its consistency with the divine-goodness. Dr. B. is president of the Lane Seminary, and an ecclesiastic of very high reputation for learning and talents. Let us see what a gentleman of his calibre can do in a case of such difficulty. The following are the strong points in the discourse referred to.
“ 1st. God had a right to create minds, and it was benevolent in him to do so." Granted. “2nd. God had a right to institute laws for the government of minds so created." This too is granted. “ 3d. He had a right to guard his law by retributive sanctions.” Very good. “ 4th. The system of government so instituted must last forever, for the same reasons will operate to keep it up which led at the first to its institution; and as its rewards and punishments are an essential part of the system, they must endure to eternity. Endless misery results of course.” And if it does, endless reward results of course also, and what then be comes of the scriptural doctrine of salvation by grace ? It goes by the root before this metaphysical axe of the Doctor's ; eternal life, instead of being the gift of God, will be but a legal consequence of obedience to the divine government ! But endless misery doos nel result; the Doctor's logic is purblind here. Suppose the criminal code of a land to last for a thousand years; does it follow that each transgressor under it must endure its penal inflictions for so long ? That judge would be thought a whimsical expounder of the law, I fancy, who, finding the legal punishment for theft to be imprisonment, should, upon that ground, take it into his head that the culprit must be confined for so long as that statute should remain unaltered, if even to a hundred centuries ! Moreover, if we allow the Doetor's consequence, on what basis will rest his own hopes of eternal blessedness? He has violated the law-its penalties are irrevocable, and therefore, (as he thinks,) eternal! Wo cal? a man a good logician who can prove all he
wishes to prove; what may we call him who can prove a great • deal more?
To reconcile endless misery with the divine benevolence, the Doctor had recourse to two illustrations; the first was to the following effect. A legislative body compose a code of laws for a particular realm; all their enactments are made with express reference to the public welfare; but in order to effect a result which shall be best on the whole, and for the generality, they find it absolutely necessary to append the penalties of perpetual imprisonment, and even a forfeiture of life in certain cases; whereupon an individual among them remonstrates—" Take care what you do, (he exclaims,) these penalties may come to bear upon some of yourselves, your children, or your children's children; therefore, be cautious how you proceed, for by this act you may possibly be sealing your own doom, or theirs.” “What shall be done now?" (enquired the Doctor.) “ Either the good of the whole public must be left unguarded through an overweening tenderness toward a comparatively few abandoned individuals, or they must be sacrificed to the general interest; which shall we prefer ?”
This comparison betwixt a legislature and the deity is far more plausible than just; for no difficulties of the kind here supposed arise in God's way; he is never reduced to a choice between two or more evils; it is as perfectly in his power to secure the ultimate good of the whole as of a part; if I doubted this in regard to every individual part composing that whole, I should equally doubt it in regard to any. I wish our opponents would tell us at once whether they do or do not deny the divine omnipotence ; for if they do not, why are they perpetually nibbling at it with this species of sophistry? But why do I speak of his power? His wisdom and benevolence are equally crippled by this sort of comparisons. He cannot frame a system of government, it would seem, which will not subject him to the hard necessity of foregoing the claims of benevolence with regard to some of his creatures, out of respect to the well-being of the greater numher!
The Doctor's other illustration was less hacknied; I know not but it originated with himself. It was, in substance, as follows:
Suppose that before the work of creation was begun, the Almighty had anticipated it, by at once calling into momentary existence all the intelligences whom he contemplated ever to create, in order to obtain their vote upon the question whether they would prefer to be, (subject to all the liabilities of being, which are contemplated
by the doctrine of endless misery,) or to return to non-existence, and to remain non-existent forever.” “I foresee (the Creator tells them,) that some of you will violate my laws, and subjeet yourselves to my eternal displeasüre; but this will result from no decree or purpose of mine, but from the incurable perverseness of such individuals themselves, in despite of all the efforts of my goodness to prevent it. Will you, then, that I prosecute my purpose of creating you, to live forever, and subject to the risk (which shall only be realized in regard to a comparative few) that your being shall be rendered eternally miserable by disobedience; or shall I abandon my purpose, forgo my benevolent plan, with all the incalculable amount of enjoyment to millions of millions which shall result therefrom, merely out of regard to the relatively small quantity of misery which is unavoidably incident to it ?” The universal vote in such a case would have been, (as the Doctor thinks,) “ Create us; we will prefer to exist and take the risk, rather than to continue in eternal nothingness; and if any of us shall be so ungrateful as to violate our obligations to thy goodness, and so perverse as to rush through every obstacle of thy grace down to final ruin, we shall deserve the result, and we consent to abide it-let us live!"
My dear reader, I trust you are not such a dolt as to be unable to perceive the fallacy in the above case; it consists, you must see, in supposing Jehovah reduced to the alternative of either creating some beings for final misery, or not creating them at all! If this is not absurdity, essential, quintessential absurdity, then is there no such thing in the universe. Moreover, it is very doubtful if that assemblage of intelligences would, in the case supposed, have rendered any such vote, even allowing the proposition to have been presented in the soft and guarded terms which the Doctor has employed. But how, according to his doctrine, stands the reality? Certainly far less favorably than here represented. From the state of human society since the lapse of our first parents down to present times, (6000 years) I am warranted in saying, that if the notion of endless inisery be true, ninety-nine hundredth's of mankind will be eternally lost! Would a multitude of beings deserve to be called intelligent, who should consent to accept of existence in view of any result approximating this? Would the Doctor himself consent to be the parent of any