Page images
PDF
EPUB

connexion with the text, is vastly different from his coming to inflict his wrath on a small part of his enemies, within the limits of Jerusalem. So that the prediction of his coming to judge the world in righteousness has not yet been fulfilled.

4. Can we disbelieve the doctrine of endless misery, because of counterevidence ? Such evidence cannot be found. On this subject, there is no contradiction in the word of God. God has not said that the Judge of quick and dead will not come in his glory at the end of the world to judge all men according to their works ; that there will be no resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust; and that there will be no exact and final separation between them according to their characters. He has not said that he will treat all men alike in the day of his righteous judgment, and sentence none to endless misery. He has not said that those who go away into everlasting punishment, shall be released from their torment; that the great gulf shall be filled up, and passed over ; that their never-dying worm shall die ; and that their unquenchable fire shall cease to burn. Nothing of this purport appears in his word. Nor has he said any thing of the ungodly in the day of judgment or in eternity, which is not consistent with their endless misery, But whatever any may think inconsistent with this, does not touch the point, but relates to this life, or to the resurrection, or solely to the kingdom of the redeemed. This will be briefly shown.

Christ shall have of the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." But this shall be in the present world; and it will not bring those to love and serve him who have died impenitent. These must still suffer endless perdition.

“ He that is dead is freed from sin.”—This is not natural death, when the body returns to dust; but death unto sin. “ How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?” The meaning is simply this ; He that is dead to the love of sin is freed from its condemning power, or acquitted from its guilt. His being dead to sin is the evidence that he is justified by faith.

“ God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”* This is explained by another passage; “The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe.”+ This faith is exercised in this life. God has mercy on all that believe. But he has not mercy on those who die in unbelief.

“ And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.”I Christ explains this in saying : “ All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me."These are the all whom he draws to himself. Those who die without saying faith, are not given to him, nor drawn to him. To such he said, “ Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.—My sheep hear my voice,-and I give unto them eternal life.”'ll

“ Who will have all men to be saved." His command expresses his will, or willingness, in this case. He commands all men to repent, that they may live. “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."** This is his command to every one that hears his gospel. He is sincere in this command. He has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live. This he truly desires ; as he desired the obedience of Israel : “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children after them.”It But they did not all obey. Many of them perished in their disobedience. So, many now refuse to repent and to believe, and die in sin. These he never purposed to save. * Rom. ii. 32. Gal. iii. 22. John xii. 32.

John vi. 37. || John X. 26-28. 1 Tin, ji, 4.

tt Deut, v. 29. tif

** Acts xvi. 31.

ness.

“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."*

But the penitent only accept his offered forgive“ Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Those only are reconciled to him, who obtain like precious faith with the apostles ; and continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel. If Judas had followed Christ in the regeneration, he would have had a throne, as one of the twelve apostles. But he had a devil, and was a traitor. By transgression, he fell from his apostleship; and another was divinely appointed to take it. I

“ That, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together, in one, all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.”'S But only those who accept redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, are thus gathered. He gathers together in one all the children of God that were scattered abroad. Some of these are now in heaven and some on earth.

There shall be “the times of restitution of all things.”|| This restitution will be at Christ's second appearing. “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution.” In reference to his first appearing, it is said, “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things.”T This was fulfilled in John his messenger. He prepared the way before Christ. Many of the children of Israel, he turned to the Lord their God. He turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; and made ready a people prepared for the Lord. But this restoring all things brought only a part of the Jews into cordial subjection to their anointed King. His ministry effected all that the Lord then intended for the establishment of his kingdom. So in the future restitution, Christ will put all things in their place. He will put down all rule, and all authority and power opposed to him, and put all enemies under his feet. All things shall then be subdued to him. Ali his enemies shall be consigned to their place of punishment, no more to trouble the heirs of his kingdom ; and his saints shall enjoy the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

“ As by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."'** But believers only are made righteous by the obedience of Christ. 6. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already.”It Justification is limited to those who are in Christ. Thus it is limited by the Apostle, when in the same connexion, he says, “ They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” These in this life are born of God, and they are all, upon whom comes the free gift unto justification of life. Those who are not born of the Spirit, have no part in this justification. The many made sinners by Adam's offence, are all his posterity ; and the many justified by the obedience of Christ, are all his spiritual seed.

“ In Christ, shall all be made alive.”It But this is spoken of the bodies of men being raised from the dead. The Apostle is proving the resurrection of them that are Christ's at his coming. But when the saints then awake to life, the ungodly awake " to shame and everlasting contempt."$$

“ And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon * 2 Cor. v. 19.

| Col. i. 20-23. Acts i. 23—26. § Ephes. i. 10. Il Acts iïi. 21.

Matt. xvii. 11.
** Rom. v. 19.

ft John jii. 18. 11 1 Cor. xv. 22.

$$ Sec Dan. xii. 2. and John v. 29.

the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”* But this was before Christ opened the seals of the book given him, and before the events then predicted were accomplished. It took place, when many were the enemies of God, and could not join cordially in this anthem of praise. None could thus join in it, but his friends, and these only could be meant by the inspired writer.

“ Behold I make all things new.”+ But this is spoken of the blessed state of the righteous after the final judgment; and must be confined to that ; because we are immediately afterwards told, that the ungodly shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

In all these passages of Scripture, there is nothing which is inconsistent with the endless destruction of those who die impenitent. And I know of no other passage which is any more favourable to their case.

5. Can we disbelieve endless misery, because we think all men alike, or nearly so ? All men by nature are children of wrath and under sin. This is abundantly taught in the sacred Scriptures. All the unconverted have the carnal mind of enmity to God, and live in disobedience to his will. They have, however, different degrees of wickedness, and deserve different degrees of punishment. But all do not continue in sin. Some are born of God, and accepted as righteous in the Beloved. These are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. They walk in newness of life. Every child of God is a new creature. His views, affections, and motives are changed. The reigning principle of selfishness has received a deadly wound; and love to God and man is now his ruling principle. He is.essentially different from the unconverted. You see this difference in Abel and Cain. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain ; by which he obtained witness that he was righteous ; God testifying of his gifts.”! But Cain, through unbelief and self-righteous pride, disdained to offer such a sacrifice. was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.”'s The same difference is seen in Paul and Judas. At the time of his conversion, Paul might be a far greater sinner, than Judas was, when he first professed to follow Christ. He was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious. But through Divine mercy, he repented, and embraced that Jesus as his Saviour, whom he had so despised. To the service of Jesus his Lord, he unreservedly devoted his life. But how differently did Judas ? He made such a profession of love to Christ, as to gain, for a time, the confidence of his fellow disciples. But he proved to be a hypocrite and a thief. He sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, and betrayed him with a kiss. He killed himself, and went to his own place. Such was his end. " It had been good for that man if he had not been born."|| This proves his endless misery. For those words of Christ cannot be true, if his misery should ever end, and he should afterwards have eternal life.

Now there has been, and there still is, a succession of believers of the same spirit with Abel and Paul. The work of renewing grace on the hearts of men has never ceased; but converts to Christ have been multiplied. In these, his true church has been continued, and will be, to the end of time: for he has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”I We cannot always distinguish these living members from the ungodly; but the Lord knoweth them that are his. The day of judgment will make them manifest from all the impenitent. The saints will then be perfectly holy, and the ungodly be full of iniquity. Then Christ's words will be verified: “Not every

[ocr errors]

* Rev, v. 13.
$ 1 Jobin iii. 12.

| Rev. xxi, 5.
|| Matt. XXV . 24.

1 Heb. xi. 4.
* Matt. xvi. 18.

one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you ; depart fromí me, ye that work iniquity."'* Saints do the will of God; but sinners work iniquity. This is the essential difference between them; and this is reason sufficient for their final separation. Can

any think there are no believers now, because it is said, that signs, or miracles, shall follow them that believe it but none of these signs are ever seen ? If there have been no believers since miracles ceased, then for fifteen centuries or more, Christ has had no seed to serve him in all the earth ; the gates of hell have prevailed against his church; and his word has failed. But this cannot be true: and Christ did not say, that miraculous signs should follow all believers through all ages. They followed them that believed, as far as was necessary for the confirmation and establishment of revealed truth.

6. Is there any reason to suppose that the wicked will be changed at some future time? But the Scripture reveals no saving change after death. Sinners may repent unto salvation, before death, but not afterwards. At death, “the wicked is driven away in his wickedness.”! So it was with the rich man. He died and was buried, and in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham afar off. Christ represented his state as absolutely hopeless. The present life is the only space for repentance. Here only can the means of grace be enjoyed. Here the character is formed for eternity. Here the saints are made vessels of mercy, and prepared for glory ; and here the ungodly fill

up the measure of their iniquity, and fit themselves for destruction. God endures them with much long-suffering ; while after their hardness and impenitent hearts, they treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Men are urged to turn now and live, lest they die in their sins and have no remedy. believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”'S “ He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."|| To those, who thus die and are destroyed, no hope is left.

They do not repent between death and the resurrection. • For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest."T And Christ says, they that have done evil come forth from their graves to the resurrection of damnation. At death and the resurrection their character is the same.

In the same character, they appear before the Judge. They are judged according to the deeds done in the body. Some may think otherwise : but “ the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”**

“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”It But those who die in their sins, have no part in this change. This is a change of the bodies of living saints at Christ's coming to raise the dead. In this chapter, the Apostle treats exclusively of the resurrection of saints. Speaking of the saints, as one body, he says, “ We shall not all sleep,” or die ; for we who shall be alive at Christ's coming, shall all be changed without dying. The next words show that this is a change of the body: “ For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” The body only is corruptible and mortal, and must be made incorruptible and im

6 If ye mortal, to fit it for the kingdom of glory. Here is described no change of those, who die impenitent, from sin to holiness.

* Matt. vii. 21-23. | Prov. xxix. 1.

† Mark xvi. 17, 18. ? Eccl, ix. 10.

| Prov. xiv. 32. ** Prov. x. 28.

§ John viii. 24. If I Cor. xp. 51, 52.

“ By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing.' These were the spirits of men of Noah's day. They were disobedient during God's forbearance, while the ark was building. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. He had the Spirit of Christ ; and Christ, by his Spirit in him, preached to them, or to their spirits ; for it is the spirit that understands. But his preaching was ineffectual. They did not repent. They knew not until the flood came and took them all away–destroyed them all.f They were cut off in their iniquities; and their spirits were cast into prison. Peter speaks of them as in prison, when he wrote. It could not be otherwise ; for as they did evil, and died in sin, so their bodies were reserved in the dust to the resurrection of damnation; and their spirits must be kept in prison to await the same doom. The body and the spirit united are at last sentenced to the same punishment. Here then is no proof that the spirits of the disobedient repent in prison, or that any means are there used with them for this purpose.

Divine judgments alone do not reclaim ungodly men. But their hardening effect on men left to themselves, is strikingly represented in Scripture : “ And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues ; and they repented not to give him glory. And they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”! This is the effect of Divine judgments on those who are given up to suffer them without remedy. They produce no godly sorrow—no repentance unto life ; but rather increase the enmity of the heart against God. The conscience is convinced of His righteousness, but the heart is enraged to greater madness. This must be the effect of the curse of the law in hell, where the hope of the ungodly is turned into endless despair.

Christ said to the barren fig-tree, “ Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” This fig-tree, thus blasted, represents the ungodly, as devoted to destruction—to endless sinning and suffering. This is confirmed by another passage, which must be fulfilled in the future state : “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still."'I It is added, “ And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Such will be the unalterable condition of the two classes of men after the final judgment. The unjust and filthy will be as unchanged for ever, as the righteous and holy. How then can their misery end ? 7. Can we disbelieve their endless misery, as being impossible ?

" But with God all things are possible.” He can raise the dead. This is as easy for him, as to form our bodies at first, and give us the breath of life. He is omniscient; and can bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing. He is righteous ; so as to judge every man according to his works. As the King eternal and almighty, he can show his wrath and make his power known, in the endless sufferings of implacable enemies. He can uphold them in any degree of torment, which his justice inflicts. He can fulfil his word, that their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched. Hath he said ? And will he not do it ?

The nature of this punishment does not render its execution impossible. God, in adapting his language to mortals, has chosen to represent it, as “ever

* 1 Pet. jj. 19, 20.

† Matt. xxiv. 39; Luke xvii. 27.

| Prov. xvi. 9-11. & Matt. xxi. 19.

|| Rev. xxii. II.

« PreviousContinue »