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"Thus much is sufficient to prove, that the doctrines of our Church, on this head, contain in them nothing contradictory to the attributes of Providence, as evident in his conduct before us, and this, ad homines, is enough; for then they stand on the evidence of the Holy Scripturés unaffected by any antecedent improbability. But the truth is, that analogy goes further than these negative proofs, and all its additional testimony will be found to incline to the same side. It is observable, that in the government of this world, punishments are much more generally distributed than rewards. Misery of all kinds is frequent and public, while happiness is silent and invisible: an awful lesson well calculated to teach us that our God is a God of judgment; and to warn us, lest relying too much on the infinite mercies he has vouchsafed us, we should forget the more tremendous parts of his administration. Are we disposed to think leniently of our sins, and believe it incredible that the threatened vengeance should be thus unlimited? Let us recollect, that those who, to our dim vision, seem purified from sin and elevated almost to angelic excellence, have certainly in some, and perhaps in all ages, been the objects of the severest visitations. If then it be so, that failings, to us invisible, bring with them such fearful consequences, how shall we calculate the sum of evil to be poured forth on his head, whose life has been devoted to iniquity, unqualified by any virtue? Imagination shrinks from such a consideration, and can repose only in humble resignation on the merits of a merciful Redeemer.
Beyond, however, these proofs of the probable severity of punishments, the course of events in this world affords yet one instance directly analogous to the doctrine in dispute; and the conduct of Providence, in the one case, af
fords a strong presumption that the same will be adopted in the other. Imprudence in temporal concerns appears to bear the same relation to the present state, as moral misconduct may be supposed to bear to a future one. Now, it is observable, that though imprudent conduct, to a certain point, may be wholly or partially repaired, yet, when that point is past, it is even here irretrievable; no repentance can atone, no labours can avert the consequences; but the ills naturally attendant on such actions come on irresistibly upon us, till a premature death finally closes the scene*. The man who by early intemperance wastes his health, his fortune, and his character, has a season of probation allowed him, in which reformation is practicable; but the day soon comes when even reformation is vain; when their “ fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction as a whirlwind."
If then there be any force in analogical reasoning, and if this analogy be correct, a strong presumption is here afforded, from the circumstances which actually pass before our eyes, of the truth of that doctrine which our Church is content to rest only on the words of the New Testament; so little foundation is there for the assertion that it is a priori improbable.
I have one more observation to offer in confirmation of -- this truth, before we proceed to the evidences of reve
lation. The constitution of our nature is such that it is scarcely possible for us to continue stationary. Habits, whether good or evil, are daily strengthening; and in proportion as we press on in virtue or vice, the diffi
This argument from the analogy of death, may be found in Bishop Butler.
culty of receding is increased; and it is easy to conceive these habits so advanced by constant exertion, as to leave nothing more than an abstract possibility of any future alteration. Such is the state of the case even here; but we know that with this life the hour of probation will be ended. If, therefore, we may venture to reason at all concerning the mysteries of a future world, it should seem almost naturally impossible to banish the eternity of punishments: for God's moral government being supposed the same, punishments must be attendant upon crimes; and those who, at the time of their dissolution, had reached any considerable height of depravity, must, according to the present constitution of things, daily sink deeper in vice, by the daily corroboration of their vicious habits; and thus crimes and their attendant punishments must continue in a perpetually accelerating and eternal progression.
As a refuge from these fearful auguries, we can look only to the mercies of God and the merits of our Saviour; but even these, though the source of all comfort, are pregnant also with awful considerations, since the first, we know are conditional, and the latter attest the consequence of unrepented sins.
Whether these arguments would in themselves be sufficient to prove the truth of the doctrine I maintain, is not very material to determine, but I hope they will be thought so far to remove all the usual objections, as to allow the mind to look for its confirmation in Holy Writ, without any disposition to cavil at it when discovered.
The observations which I have already offered, would . have been of less importance, had the doctrine now under examination met with no opposition. To me the
words of Revelation are fully adequate to its establishment; but the history of heresy, in every age, may assure us, that no language, however direct, would be thought convincing by those whose minds are already wedded to opinions, which they are sure the Bible cannot contradict.
Who boldly take the high priori road,
And reason downward-till they doubt of God. Such, I apprehend, is the history of Dr. Clarke's Arianism. He had demonstrated the unity of God metaphysically, and to this proof Article of Faith all difficulties, and (as he esteemed them), contradictions, were obliged to give way. In the same manner many learned Divines have proceeded in rejecting the eternity of future torments;-having first convinced themselves that such an opinion would be contradictory to the known attributes of God, they pass a hasty eye over passages which, on their principles, seem hard to be comprehended: using in this case their reason, much as the Quakers do their spirit, which must be infallible, though the Scriptures may be misinterpreted. Against such antagonists it seems useless to dwell merely on particular texts, because, admitting their premises, perhaps no texts would be thought conclusive; I have therefore endeavoured to shew that those premises are ungrounded, and that nothing can be adduced to prove this doctrine contradictory to the attributes of God as understood from his ordinary dispensations towards us, but rather that every thing around us strongly tends to confirm it. I now proceed to make a few observations on the nature of the testimony by which it is supported in the New Testament, as well as the construction by which that testimony is evaded.
The words principally under dispute in this controversy are those by which eternity is usually designated in the Bible: - EIS TOUS awwas," sometimes written with the fuller addition of "Toy awwy" These words, it is said, may be best understood either as describing a period of indefinite duration, not absolutely eternal, but to which no limit is assigned; or as an expression directly borrowed from the Jews, and meant only to extend to the expiration of those æons into which they divided the several administrations of Providence. I am incapable of entering very critically into this matter, but I think I see enough to convince me that neither of these constructions is tenable. In answer to the latter it may be said, that the Jews never thought of more than two ages; the present, which included the advent of the Messiah; and the future, which they believed to be eternal-each of these they styled "asas", but when referring to the last always considered it as infinite.-Thus John vi. 51. albro" is rendered by our translators “ for ever;" and I suppose correctly, for we read that till the time of Ezra, their benedictions (like ours) concluded with the phrase wys strictly rendered “ E1S TOV awwwx;" when the Sadducees becoming numerous and disputing the meaning of this expression, they adopted that form which we render “ES TOUS αιωνας των αιώνων, as more full and conclusive. It seems however evident, that whatever might be the origin of these words, they soon became engrafted in the language as a common form of speech, and in fact, considered in either light, the constructions contended for are both open to the following objections. For 1st, Had the Greeks no form of speech by which to express eternity? Was their language, the richest ever known, destitute of a
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