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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 subjects; 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 uprighteous will be admitted into that more glorious kingdom in heaven?" No. Neither can we reasonably expect that the utmost holiness 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, for 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 characters as he specifies as not admissible to the church or kingdom of Christ; but they had ceased from their former evil practices, and had 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. T'he 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 becomes 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 does nul 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 Doctor'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! We call 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 subject yourselves to my eternal displeasure; 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
given number of children, out of which a proportion, answering to that of the human family which shall sink to eternal woe, should certainly be lost, ruined, abandoned to suffering and to infamy, forever and ever? Let him deliberately and conscientiously respond to this question, ere he again depicts his Creator's character in the hues of his dark and repulsive theology.
Oh Zion, arise! in thy glory appear,
Thy garments of beauty put on,
Thy winter is over and gone.
Too long have the harps of thine exiles been mute,
And sad on the willows have hung;
How can anthems of Zion be sung ?”
But the time long foretold by thy prophets is near,
Rise! rise! for its dawning we see,
And sighing and sorrow shall flee.
No more, then, forever thy sun shall go down,
Thy moon hide its brightness no more;
No night ever visits that shore.
Already the Gentiles are flocking to thee,
To share thy salvation they come,
And no more in transgression shall roam.
Oh hail, thou blest season! thou era of gold !
Thy beauties our bosoms inspire;