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not inconsistent with each other. They all unite to inspire the pious Christian with the humble hope, that he shall possess glory, honour, and immortality.
That the obsurity, respecting the state of the wicked, was designed, there can be no reasonable doubt. It was as easy to be explicit in the one case as in the other. It is most probable that no definite statement could have been made, at an early period, in the infancy of human reason, and in the centre of barbarian principles, when imagination and wild conjecture always take the lead, without its having been productive of the most pernicious consequences. Had the severity of punishment been fully revealed, and displayed in all its horrors, the human mind might have been overwhelmed with anguish. Even the most righteous and pious of men, might have been so deeply impressed with a consciousness of their own infirmities, as to suffer inextinguishable dread, lest they also should come into this place of torment; while the incorrigible wickedness of those most dear to them, would fill their souls with insufferable agonies. On the other hand, should any rays of mercy have shone distinctly through this dreadful gloom, upon unprepared minds, the salutuary force of terror, which is the most powerful in its influence of all the passions, upon sordid and uncultivated minds, might have been destroyed. A single ray of hope might have operated, as the expectations of a reprieve are frequently known to operateupon condemned criminals, and have entirely checked any incipient attempts at repentance.
The passages, however, notwithstanding the obscurities that surround them, exist; they must exist for an useful purpose. They must each of them have some specific meaning, and as God cannot contradict himself, they can be contradictory in appearance only. The time must come in which they will be rationally explained, or they would occupy an useless place in the revelation of God. But as no other revelations are to be expected, the explanation can only be obtained by the due exercise of our rational faculties, upon competent documents placed before us.
The obscurities in which this subject is involved, relate to the object or design, and the duration of future punishments. Its precise nature cannot be known, and its place can be of no moment. As the local situation of future bliss is not circumstantially revealed, we cannot expect information upon this point. The object,
other disciple, John. This was a question of mere curiosity, and it was evaded.
" If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee, follow thou me.”* Under the Jewish dispensation, most of the prophecies, both of mercy and of terror, were expressed in ambiguous language, and rendered capable of various interpretations; but they were well calculated to encourage, orto alarm and terrify; and these were their sole objects. Truths, which it is essential to human happiness to be known, and which the human faculties had not discovered, during the lapse of ages, are finally revealed to our admiring eyes. Events in the womb of futurity will, in their due time and order, be brought forth into the light. Truths, which are obscurely or ambiguously expressed, can only be known when incidental circumstances throw a due degree of light upon them; when the dispositions of men, and the mental powers, become properly qualified for the office of investigation; which was not to be expected in the earlier periods of their exercise.
It is a remarkable fact, that the future destiny of the Wicked is expressed, not only in ambiguous phraseology, but in terms which apparently contradict each other. It is said, that in the state
* Jóha xxi. 28.
inordinate ambition. They are restless to extend their domains, delight in conquests, and cannot enjoy even the luxuries of their station, while there remains an enemy unsubdued. This disposition is a characteristic of their folly: and it is a copious source of their crimes. But the ambition of the Messiah, the prince of peace, erowns every other excellence. He also has enemies, many, powerful, and inveterate; whom he is ambitious to subdue, nor will he rest until they shall be totally subdued. These enemies are also the enemies of the human species. They are, ignorance, vice, and misery.
VI. All human governments are of a limited extent. The most beneficial effects of the best laws are confined to particular communities, and those systems of policy, which may promote the prosperity of one country, may prove inimical or injurious to the neighbouring states. The wisest of human legislators, feels not the obligation to study the interests of all foreign powers. The summit of his desires is to live in peace and amity with surrounding nations. Such, however, is the ambition of statesmen ; such the interest and dispositions of the subject, that friendly intercourse is seldom of a long continuance. Jealousies and animosities, from a competition of interests, are perpetually excited
and the duration of future punishments, are of infinite moment.
The general, and indeterminate expressions of scripture, have given rise to three hypotheses, very distinct from each other. These we shall proceed to consider; as an opportunity will thus present itself of examining those passages of scripture, upon which each hypothesis is professedly founded. Nor shall we neglect to apply the maxim we have advanced at the commencement of this disquisition ; “when different parts of Scripture seem to oppose or contradict each other, those explanations which are most consonant to reason and most worthy of the Deity, ought to be adopted.”
Some, indeed a great majority of Christians, have, for many ages, strenuously supported the doctrine of the absolute, irremediable, eternal misery of myriads and myriads of souls, that die in an impenitent state, enemies to God by wicked works. Nor have these christians manifested a modest diffidence, concerning this intricate subject, so becoming the obscurities which surround it, but they have peremptorily enforced their interpretations of scripture language, as infallible truths, which it is dangerous to disbelieve or to