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The Nature and Duration of future
Punishments considered; and the
MATTHEW XXVI. 24.
It had been good for that Man, if he bad
not been born.
HESE Words are spoken of Ju-Serm.IV. das Iscariot, but they are applica
; and the Sense of them is, Whoever lives abandoned, and dies impenitent, shall find his Miseries in the whole Extent of his Being to overbalance the Enjoyments he has had so far, that it had been happy for him not to have been at all; it being better not to be at all, than to be so miserable as he
Serm.IV. shall be : Or, in other Words, Non-Exist
ence, though not a Blessing in itself, is fo, comparatively with the Torments which he shall endure.
This is the plain express authentic Declaration of no less a Person, than our blerfed Saviour; and it seems to overthrow the Opinion of Origen, who imagined, that the Damned should be admitted to everlasting Happiness after a determined Period of Woe. For then it could not have been said with any Truth, that the Sum of their Miseries should exceed their Pleasures; fince an eternal Happiness would outweigh any
finite Torments. Non-existence would not have been, in the true Estimate of Things, a Blessing to those, who were certain of an exceeding and everlasting Weight of Glory. It would be good for that Man to be born, who should fome Time or other be happy for ever.
In the Prosecution of this Subject I propose,
Ill, To consider the Duration of future Punishments :
Ildly, To set forth the Nature of them: 111dly, To make some practical Inferences.
As to the Isf, viz. The Duration of fu- Sekm.IV. ture Punishments.
When God shall set forth, before the united Assembly of Men and Angels, the Harmony and Consistency of his Providence, from the first Birth of Time to its last Period; it is to be humbly hoped, that merciful Abatements will be made for unavoidable Temptations, to which Men have been exposed by their Situation in Life; for the Want of a regular and virtuous Education, &c. And perhaps some part of what is called moral Evil, may be, in the Eye of him, who knoweth whereof we are made, nothing but natural Evil; as owing to the native Impetuosity of some Mens original Complexions, and to the unactive Coldness of other Mens natural Tempers, which, whether they could wholly get the better of, God only knows. It may be likewise presumed, that the Number of the Damned will bear no more Proportion to that of the Blessed throughout the whole Creation; than a Workhouse or a Prison does to the whole Extent of a large Kingdom.
But whatever gracious Allowances may be made; it is an express Scripture Doctrine, that the Wicked Mall go away into everlast* VOL. II.
Serm.IV. ing Punishment ; but the Righteous into Life
Let us suppose, that Mankind were to live here for ever : Let us suppose, that fome of them were become abandoned and incorrigibly bad: Would it be any unjustifiable Severity to confine Them for ever in Prison, that they might not seduce or annoy the rest of the Creation ; or even to inflict positive Punishments upon them, in their Confinement, adequate to their Offences, in order to deter others ? It is only therefore to suppose, that the Soul is in its own Nature designed for an immortal Duration ; that those, who are consigned to everlasting Misery, are such as by a continued Course of Sinning have so difabled all the Powers of the Soul, that it is morally impoffible for them, without the extraordinary
Grace of God, to cease from Sinning: And then if it be no Injustice, as undoubtedly it is not, that every Sinner should be a Sufferer; there can be no Injustice, that every habitual, eternal Sinner should be an eternal Sufferer.
This Consideration, I think, takes off the Force of the Objection, viz. That there is no Proportion between temporary Crimes,
and eternal Punishments. But, since some SERM.IV.
It, Let it be considered, that though the outward Acts of Sin be temporary; yet the Defilement and Habit contracted by a Repetition of these Acts is, if we die in a State of Impenitence, eternal. And as eternal ill Habits are the Source of eternal Torments; it will follow that the Impenitent have entailed upon themselves everlafting Misery. If, when Death has closed the Scene, there be no After-game to play ; if all Overtures of Grace then cease; if Vice be stamped upon the Soul in indelible Characters; if he that is filthy, must be filthy still; then it is an undeniable Confequence, that he, who can never cease to be wicked, can never cease to be miserable. The veteran Sinner is steeled against all Impressions, and the Miser does not ceafe to love this world with all his Soul, and with all bis Strength, even when he stands just upon the Verge of another. How often have we seen Men; that, however inconsistent in every thing else, have been very consistent in obeying one ruling, habitual Passion from first to last? Nay, we have