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translated grave. In this the crafty translators, whose heads and creeds were equally full of hell and damnation, betrayed their attachment to the pious frauds of antiquity, and their disposition to save from ruin their favourite system. They perceived that if the word Hades should be translated hell, in the text, the doctrine built on this supposititious foundation would come to nought. Hell having lost its victory, and death its sting, universal salvation must follow ; and the Pagan doctrine of hell torments, which had been introduced into the christian system, be for ever neglected. Beholding the inevitable catastrophe which would befal the whole system, rather than admit that the good news would extend to all people, they exposed themselves to the just charge of corrupting the word of God -2 Cor. 2: 17.
Awful as the terms, death and hell, may sound in your ears, my text unfolds the grace which will triumph over sin. It is an abyss which will swallow up death in victory; it is a key which shall unlock the gates of Hades, and let the prisoners go free. Death being the wages of sin, followed it as a consequence ; but sin being destroyed, death and the grave must cease to devour, and hell herself be robbed of her prey.
Friends, I undertake to disprove the wicked doctrine of hell torments. If I succeed we shall rejoice together that men are now delivered from that which held them, all their lifetime, in bondage through fear of death, I shall achieve for you a more glorious liberty than that of which a Washington could boast, and introduce a new epoch in history, more important than ever has yet been commemorated by the offspring of Adam. Great God favour my efforts !
The doctrine of Hell torments is drawn from false premises, these are that 1. sin is infinite and eternal, 2. the eternal purpose and pleasure of the Deity is,
that men continue to insult his character and government, that he may have the honour and satisfaction of damning them to new and untried scenes of torture, during his own lifetime. The absurd doctrine of infinite sin depends on two others equally absurd and monstrous, namely, there shall be an eternal law of prohibition, and an eternal propensity or liability to sin, therefore an eternal hell. An everlasting hell was built by Paganising christians on the supposition that sin is infinite, which they supposed to be the violation of an infinite law, whose penalty was eternal damnation. Now if sin be infinite, it must be so either in the parts, or in the aggregate ; if not in the parts, it cannot be in the whole, for infinity can never be shown to consist of parts. If thus one sin be infinite, and infinity cannot be augmented, then all the sin committed since Adam, amounts to just nothing ; for his sin being infinite, could not be augmented ; and therefore, joy to a world of sinners ! they have nothing to fear. Moreover, if infinite sin merits infinite punishment, then one sinner deserves all the punishment of an eternal hell and God himself cannot prepare more than infinite punishment ; consequently there never could be more than one sinner, nor more than one sufferer in the universe. It would be absurd to suppose that God ever gave such a law—there is no intimation of it in the Bible ; infinite sin nonsense, and infinite punishment is equally ridiculous. Now if such be the law, purpose and disposition of the Deity, no man but a mean, ignorant hypocrite, would say he deserves better treatment than the insults of the wicked or the curse of the damned !! But I shall plead, on behalf of the God and Father of my master Christ Jesus, not guilty—and endeavour to remove the reproach from his character, by demonstrating the falsity of the charge from the evidences of Almighty power and love, derived from the voice of reason and the testimony of Revelation.
In all the descriptions of the divine law given in the sacred oracles, it is uniformly represented as a rule of life, and all its promises and threatenings are commensurate with the present imperfect state of existence. The law was not made for a perfect man ; but for the lawless and disobedient; and there is no intimation in the Bible of disobedience ever having entered the world of spirits. All moral evil or imperfection, is confined to the carnal and terrene existence, and can never pass the gates of death. The whole testimony of God on this subject, is summarily expressed by Paul in one brief sentence, HE THAT IS DEAD IS FREE FROM SIN," Rom. 6: 7. The supposition of man's liability to sin in another mode of existence is irrational and antiscriptural, and also repugnant to the moral change, which all human beings experience in death, and the wicked thought that God's pleasure is the destruction of his creatures, is denounced by the oath of Jehovah and the mission of Jesus, Ez. 11 : 1 Tim. 2: 4. John 3: 17. and 1 John 4: 14.
If all sin originate in the earthly or sensual body, will not the dissolution of this earthly body terminate the reign of sin ? Again, if the condemnation due to sin be protracted one year after sin has ceased, what assurance have we that condemnation will ever be removed ? May not the same disposition in Deity that leads him to punish sin one year after it cease, induce him to punish eternally? If man be freed from temptation or liability to sin, at death, ought any thing less than actual experience or the plain testimony of God, induce us to admit, that man can suffer after death? These questions are designed for the consideration of those who believe in purgatorial or disciplinary pains after death, as well as for the awakening of those who dream of everlasting Torments.
An endless hell is useless, even according to the opinions of its advocates. They affirm, men will ever
be atoning for their sin, but never succeed to expiate even the least crime they may have committed.Hence the punishment of hell must be inflicted to gratify a malignant and revengeful passion in the Deity. Sure nothing less than pure malevolence could inflict pain for no other purpose than the gratification of incensed wrath. If the torments of hell could answer any good purpose, we could admit them ; but they are neither for example nor correction, consequently, they are the offspring of free, unmerited malevolence! Who can address a prayer to Jehovah, and call him father, believing that he prepared hell for man, whom, unasked, he had thrown into existence, knowing that he would terminate his course in the terrific regions of despair. O Calvinists, what think ye of your God, who begets children, makes a fire for them, and burns them to death? Nay that is nothing; he immortalizes their existence to please himself with their contortions! 0 Arminian, what better is your God, who makes man, prepares the fire, clears the way, and sits calm and composed while he beholds his creatures going into the fire, and for ever writhing in the liquid flames !!
Some of my auditors, who revolt with horror from the doctrine of an endless hell, are still inclined to approve the doctrine of Purgatory. This dogma originated as far as we can ascertain, with the Platonic philosophy. He taught that there is in matter a certain refractory force, which resists the will of the great Artificer. Out of the soul of the universe, which had itself become contaminated by material mixture, God formed inferior souls, numerous as the stars, and sent them down to the earth to be imprisoned in bodies. But the soul being immortal, by disengaging itself from animal passions and rising to the contemplation of a world of intelligences, might regain its original habitation. Matter can never suffer annihila
tion; the world therefore, shall be for ever ; and by the action of the animating principle, it accomplishes certain periods in which every thing returns to its ancient place or state. Sce Enfield's History of Philosophy.
The Platonic and Pythagorean doctrines had been admitted into the traditions of the Pharisees before the time of Christ John 9: 2. Their ideas of punishment were Platonic, and those of a resurrection Pythagorean. Josephus tells us that in the region of Hades, angels are appointed as guardians of the souls, who distribute temporary punishments to them, agreeable to every one's behaviour and manner. Virgil causes Anchises to teach this doctrine to Eneas. *
For sin are various penances enjoined,
In these lines Virgil describes the threefold means of removing the pollution of the sinner ; First, by the winds ; Second, by water; and Third, by fire. That after they had undergone purification they were introduced into the fields of the blessed. Origen adopted the Platonic doctrine and enlarged on it, and hence it became the prevailing sentiment among the christians of the third century.
The description of the infernal regions had been abandoned to the fancy of painters and poets, who peopled them with so many phantoms and monsters, who dispensed their rewards and punishments with so
*“Supplicia expendunt, aliae panduntur inanes