Images de page
PDF
ePub

punishment. Since death without mercy is the greatest punishment which can be inflicted in this state, it naturally follows that those who despise the gospel, and receive this sorer punishment, will be punished beyond death. But the advocates for your sentiment, think it absurd to admit that the gospel threatens a severer punishment than the law. In reply to a suggestion that future punishment may be taught in the gospel, though it be not found in the law, Mr. Kneeland says, "Well, surely this is a very strange thing indeed; what! does the gospel of eternal life unfold and bring to light a punishment which the law knows nothing of? and which we have not been able to find in all the Jewish records ? O strange !"*

This quotation contains much more affected sensibility than sound judgment. It is a principle taught by common sense, recognized in the scriptures, and ever admitted in all courts of justice, that the same act is more or less heinous in proportion to the knowledge of the offender. The greater our light and knowledge, the greater is our criminality, if we transgress. This you acknowledge, though this acknowledgment is fatal to your system. Your words are-"The scriptures abundantly prove that those who are farthest advanced in knowledge of divine things, are the most guilty if they disobey and this is agreeable to reason and experience." In this manner you pronounce Mr. Kneeland's suggestion unfounded, and acknowledge that the gospel inflicts a greater punishment than the law. The gospel contains more light than the law, and consequently those who abuse the gospel, and tread under foot the Son of God, will be subjected to a greater punishment than the law inflicted. It follows therefore, from the very nature of the case, that there are some who live under the light of the gospel, whose punishment will be sorer than death

:

* Kneeland's Lectures, p. 85. + Reply to Merritt, p.

23.

without mercy, or in other words, will be punished beyond the grave. This sentiment appeared so clear to the apostle, that he submitted the question to the decision of his brethren. "Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God ?"

Of nearly the same nature is the declaration of Christ "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."* To be cast into the sea with a mill-stone about one's neck, is as severe a punishment as can well be inflicted in this state; but as those who offend these little ones, are to be punished more severely, it is just to conclude that they will experience misery after the death of the body. Our Savior told the penitent thief on the cross, that he should be with him that day in paradise. But if all men go immediately to happiness, the impenitent thief would be with Christ as soon as the penitent one, and so there will be no difference between those who are penitent, and those who are impenitent. When Christ said to the penitent thief "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," he virtually said that the other thief should not. This is a principle for which you contend. To establish this point you say, “Let a case be proposed. There are in prison ten persons; five of which were committed for offences committed int he year 1810, the other five for offences committed in 1816. The proper authority directs an officer to go and liberate from prison, those who were disobedient in 1810. In all respects in which this order concerns the other five, it means that they are not included." Now if we apply this plain principle to the case before us, it means that the other thief is not included. Thus we find that the

† Luke xxiii, 43.

* Matt. xviii. 6.

Gos. Vist. Vol. III. p. 277.

short sentence, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise, clearly shows that the other thief would not be admitted to immediate happiness. And what is true of the impenitent thief, is also true of many others.

Many other passages might be adduced in proof of a future retribution, but our limits will not admit of their being brought forward. In fact, we want them not. What we have offered in this Letter, is, I conceive, sufficient to establish a future retribution. And the same ingenuity which can do away the force of these passa ges, can disprove a future existence, or any other doctrine.

In our next we will call your attention to a future reward for the righteous.

Yours, &c.

240

LETTER VII.

Future Reward. Future misery the general opinion of mankind.

REV. AND DEAR BROTHER,

As was proposed in my last, I will now invite your attention to the subject of a future reward for the righteous. A future reward is a just counterpart to a future punishment. If either of these be established, the other follows as a necessary consequence. You appear to be sensible of this, and consequently you deny a future reward for the righteous as much as a future punishment for the wicked.* We will now inquire whether the reward of virtue does in any case extend beyond death. We admit that men have a reward in this world. We acknowledge that some good deeds have a full reward here on earth. But the question is, whether every act of virtue receives its full reward in this state. We have already seen that the human mind is so constituted, that all ideas take place in succession, and consequently a period is requisite for every thought and reflection. The reward of virtue arises from the reflection of having done our duty, and promoted the enjoyment of our fellow creatures. Now as the reward of the righteous consists in that happiness, which arises from the reflection of having performed some virtuous action, and as these reflections cannot exist, till after the act is performed, it follows that the reward must be subsequent to the virtuous act. And as many are taken from this world in the performance of an act of virtue, it is manifest that they must be rewarded after death, if they are rewarded at all.

* Lectures, pp. 332, 383.

It cannot be pretended that virtue is always rewarded in the very act, for our Savior tells us that we must take up our cross, if we would be his disciples. This plainly shows that virtue is sometimes painful for the time being. Were not this the case, there could be no cross to take up. Since virtue is not always rewarded in the very act, it follows that the reward must succeed the act of virtue, and so in some cases at least, will extend beyond the Thus it grave. from the very appears nature of the case, that virtue will be rewarded in a future state. And what is so reasonable in itself, and what grows out of the very nature of things, is also taught in the oracles of God.

·

In the first place we will attempt to show that the Lord Jesus Christ was rewarded in a future state, for the arduous duties he peformed in this. St. Paul says of Christ, "He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Here the apostle gives us a brief account of the trials and sufferings of Christ, and of the meekness and patience with which he bore them. Now what was the reward which Christ received for this work of patience, this labor of love? The apostle informs us in the very next words, "Wherefore," says he, or "for this reason," as Wakefield renders the phrase, “God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Phil. ii. 7,8,9. Nothing can be plainer than that Christ was exalted as a reward for his benevolent deeds performed in this world. But where was Christ exalted? in this world, or the next? It is evident from the language of the passage, that this reward was granted him after death, for it was in consequence of his death, that he was exalted. In fact, every person will admit, that Christ's

« PrécédentContinuer »