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the dealings of Providence toward her, give thanks for every interposition in her favour, and from the judgments which God executes, learn more of his righteousness and truth. Heaven is a state of improvement. Knowledge increases there. Every fresh display of divine glory is celebrated in new songs of praise.
Religion on earth is a matter which interests the blest above. Those benevolent spirits rejoice in the diffusion of truth, virtue and happiness, among our race of mortals. They love to see fresh acces. sions to their own number. There is joy in heaven, when one sinner repents; and greater joy, when religion generally prevails, and multitudes are contin. ually rising to join their happy assembly. When the hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of the tribes of Israel, were followed by a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations of the earth, John says, he observed, and immediately these shouted-- Salvation to God and the Lamb; and then all the angels, elders, and che. rubs fell on their faces before the throne, and worshipped God, saying, Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and power, be unto our God forever. Such a mighty increase of the church was recognised by a general song of praise in heaven.
The saints give thanks for their own salvation. They admire and adore the love of God, who has called them by his grace, and the love of the Savi. our, who has redeemed them by his blood.
They give thanks for each other's salvation ; for the conversion of sinners, the prosperity of the church, and the increase of its members.
They praise God for his judgments on the enemies of truth. They are represented in our text, not only as ascribing salvation to God, but also as celebrating the rectitude of his government, in judging them, who had corrupted the earth.
These pure minds are incapable of malice and revenge. They rejoice in the destruction of cor. rupt and persecuting powers, only as by this the great obstacles in the way of truth are removed, and a more effectual door opened for its general spread and increase. Their joy springs from benevolence. The suppression of those who have corrupted the earth, is the suppression of corruption itsellf, and the means of advancing the virtue and happiness of the world.
We may observe farther,
IV. The punishment of the wicked in the future world, will be eternal. Her smoke rose up for. ever and ever. There is nothing more plainly declared in the gospel, than a future judgment, and the distribution of rewards and punishments. The declarations of the gospel, on this subject, are ful. ly agreeable to the dictates of human reason. There is an obvious difference between virtue and vice; and according to this difference we must suppose the righteous Governour of the World will finally treat his subjects. As there is no visible distinction at present made between the good and the bad, a dis. tinction doubtless will be made in a future state.
Experience teaches us, that virtue tends to hap. piness, and vice to misery. This is evidently the divine constitution. To suppose that the 'latter should be made happy, as well as the former, is to suppose, that there is an inconsistency in the divine government, and that the future distribution of good and evil will contradict the settled course of things in the present world.
Reason teaches us to expect a difference. How great the difference will be, reason cannot conjecture—Revelation only can inform us. to our view most astonishing scenes.
On the one hand, thrones and kingdoms, honour and immortality, fulness of joy, and an inconceivable weight Vol. I.
This opens of glory, are the rewards reserved for the just; and, on the other, darkness, horrour and despair, the agonies of corroding guilt, and the torments of devouring fire, are the portion of a wicked man, from God.
And these different states are always, in scripture, represented as eternal. The righteous shall go in.
to everlasting life; the ungodly into everlasting punishment.
The former we readily believe'; for, as we flat ter ourselves with the idea of happiness after death, we are willing to believe the happiness will never end. The latter we receive with reluctance, and sometimes with distrust. Every man entertains a secret hope, that if he is to exist, he shall be happy. The conscious sinner intends to repent; he hopes divine mercy will be extended to him at death ; and he is willing to believe, that if he should miscarry, there may be an after remedy.
To guard us against such presumption and selfHattery, the scripture has expressed the endless duration of the punishment of the wicked in a great variety of unequivocal terms. Language af. fords not an expression more strong and emphatical than this in the text. Her smoke rose up for EVER and Ever. Correspondent to this is the current language of inspiration. They who obey not the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction. -Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quench. ed.—When God gathers the wheat into his barn, he will burn the chaff with unguenchable fire.-The unbelieving and abominable shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death; the last state of punishment. There is no intimation of another probation, and a third death for them who abuse their new trial. To prevent all expectations of this kind, God has sworn in his wrath concerning the impenitent and unbelieving, that they shall not enter into his rest. For the son of perdition, it had been good that he had never been born. These expressions preclude all hope of an eternal happiness to succeed a temporary pun ishment in the future world. Were this to be the case, unbelievers would finally enter into rest ; and it would; on the whole, be good for them, that they were born.
You will say, “ An eternal punishment is vastly disproportioned to temporary crimes.”—But, How do you know, that crimes are temporary? The act indeed is transient ; but the effect may be perpetu. al. Can you tell, how many you have corrupted by your wickedness ?-How long the corruption will continue ?–To what number of generations it will reach ?-How many will carry with them into the other world; the corruptions infused into them by your example in this world ?- If we are to judge of the duration of the punishment by that of the wickedness, we can set no bounds to it. The short continuance of the action can be no standard for the punishment. It is not so in human judgments : Why should it be so in the divine? We never think a criminal the more excusable, be. cause he accomplished his villany with dispatch ; nor will this circumstance be an excuse at the bar of God.
Some would persuade themselves, that an end! less punishment is not consistent with the goodness and mercy of God! But the same argument might as well prove, that there will be no punishment at all; and if no punishment, then certainly no misery-no unhappiness among any of his creatures. And yet misery, we see, there is in this world. The goodness of God does not prevent all misery; and therefore, merely from his goodness, we cannot conclude that, in another world, bounds will be set to the misery of the incorrigible, or that any
abatement will be made from the due reward of their deeds.
If you suppose it is inconsistent with the character of God to make sinners forever miserable, let me ask you, Whether it is inconsistent with his character to make rational creatures-endue them with moral agency-place them in a state of probation-allow them only one probation--and fix a period for this? If these things can be reconciled to the divine character, you may suppose, that a final abuse of the limited trial will be followed with unlimited punishment. If no other probation is granted, the punishment which follows is endless.
Besides ; Is it inconsistent with God's goodness, to establish a connexion between wickedness and misery? This will not be pretended; for a connex. ion we see there is. If vice, without a mixture of virtue, universally prevailed in this world, Would human life be tolerable ? Only suppose, then, that wicked men carry with them into another world the vicious dispositions contracted in this, and you see, they will of course be miserable there. And if they are immortal, their misery will be endless. The question then is simply this, Whether the justice and goodness of God require him to amihilate sinners, in order to put a period to that misery, which grows out of the inveterate wickedness of their hearts ?
At the close of this probationary state, we are told, he who is unjust, will be unjust still ; and he who is filthy, will be filthy still. If, under all the means of goodness and correction-under all the motives of hope and fear-under the allurement of promises, and terrour of threatenings, he remains perverse, and dies in his sins, What room is there to imagine, that in a state, where these means are to be enjoyed no more, he will acquire a new temper, or feel the love of God springing up spontane.