« PreviousContinue »
ment of the sinner as long as he remains impenitent, and by the faithful and obedient adherence of the penitent offender. Divine justice is always satisfied when it attains its end; and this end is always attained, whenever the sinner is brought to repentance."* So that it is evident, that all these writers implicitly held the proposition now under consideration, which is, that the wicked deserve according to strict justice, no more punishment than is necessary to lead them to repentance, and prepare them for happiness. This is not only a real tenet of those writers, but is most essential and important to their system; for if the contrary can be established, consequences will follow, which will greatly embarrass, if not entirely overthrow that system. I therefore beg the patience of the reader, while I particularly examine that tenet: Concerning it the following observations may be made,
1. It implies that the punishment which is necessary to lead the wicked to repentance is the curse of the divine law, Without doubt that punishment which amounts to the utmost, which strict justice admits, includes the penalty or curse of the divine law. The latter does not exceed the former; because the divine law is founded in perfect justice, and whatever is inconsistent with justice, is equally inconsistent with the divine law. If therefore the sinner deserve, according to strict justice, precisely so much punishment as. is necessary to lead him to repentance and no more, then this is the true and utmost curse of the divine law.—Yet such a punishment as this, is really on the whole no evil, and therefore no curse even to the subject; because by the supposition it is necessary to lead him to repentance, and prepare him for the everlasting joys and glory of heaj en.
* Thoughts on the Divine Goodness, page 112.
Dr. C. has given us his idea of a curse, in his Five Dissertations,* in the following words, “ A testimony of the divine displeasure against man's offence:" " A testimony of the vengeance of God, which is a judgment on his part and a real evil on man's part.” In the same book, he states his idea of a blessing to a man, to be, “ That which is greatly to his advantage." But the pains of hell, if they be absolutely necessary, and most happily conducive to the repentance and endless happiness of the damned, are no real evil on their part, nor any judgment or testimony of vengeance on God's part: and therefore are no curse at all; but are according to the Doctor's own definition a real blessing, and a real testimony of the benevolence of God to the damned. Surely a medicine of disagreeable taste, but absolutely necessary to preserve the life, or restore the health of a man, and administered with consummate judgment, is no evil or curse to the man to whom it is administered; but is a desirable good, or a blessing to him ; and the administration of it, is a full proof of the benevolence of the physician to his patient. A proof equally demonstrative of the divine benevolence to the damned, is the whole of their punishment in hell, if it be designed merely to lead them to repentance and to prepare them for happiness : and this fruit of the divine benevolence can, according to Dr. C's own definition of a curse, be no curse.
It is granted by Dr. C. and in general by other advocates for universal salvation, that the torments of hell are not only wisely adapted, but that they are absolutely necessary to lead the damned to repentance ; that do more gentle means would so well answer the proposed end ; that therefore the divine go ess and wisdona have chosen and applied those torments, as the means of good to the damned. But certainly that which is on
* P. 109, 110. +P. 112.
the whole necessary for a person's own good, is to him, on the whole, no real evil, and therefore no curse ; but a good, a blessing; a wise man would choose it for himself, as it is, in its connexion, really and properly eligible or desirable. If the torments of hell taken in connexion with repentance and endless happiness be a curse, then repentance and endless happiness taken in connexion with the torments of hell, are a curse too. If some bitter pill, considered as connected with life, be a curse; then life connected with that pill, is a curse too. That and that only is a curse to a person, which taken in its proper connexions and dependences, renders him more miserable, than he would be without it. On the contrary, that is a blessing to a person, which taken in its proper connexions and dependences, renders him more happy than he would be without it. It is just as great a blessing and just as great a privilege, as happiness itself. And with what propriety this can be called a curse, I appeal to every man acquainted with propriety of language to determine. To call this a curse is to confound a curse and a blessing.-This being the true idea of a curse and a blessing, it immediately follows on the supposition now under consideration, that the torments of hell are no curse, but a blessing to those on whom they are inflicted; because the very supposition is, that they are necessary to secure and promote their happiness and are inflicted for this end only.
The absurdity then, to which on the whole we are reduced is, that those means, wbich are the best that infioite wisdom itself could devise and apply, for the salvation of those who die in impenitence, are the curse of the divine law; and that the greatest evil which God can consistently with justice inflict on the greatest and most obdurate enemy of himself, of his Son our glorious Saviour, of his law, of his grace, and of mankind, is, to
put him under the best possible advantages to secure and promote his highest everlasting happiness : which is no more nor less than to say, That the greatest curse which God can consistentiy with his perfections inflict on the sinner dying in impenitence, is to bestow on him the greatest blessing, which it is in the power of omnipotence and infinite bounty to bestow on him, in his present temper
of mind ; that the divine law has no curse at all annexed to it; and that the penalty of the law is an inestimable blessing, the blessing of repentance, or of that discipline, which is absolutely necessary, and most wisely adapted to lead to repentance, and to prepare for the greatest bappiness.
If on this view of the matter, it should be said, that the punishment of hell is not the greatest blessing which God can bestow on the sioner who dies in impenitence; that it would be a greater blessing, to grant him repentance by immediate efficacious grace, and then receive him to heavenly happiness ;-Concerning this I observe, that it gives up the only ground, on which the supposition now under consideration rests, and on which alone it can be supported. The supposition is, that the punishment of hell is inflicted with the sole view of leading the sufferers to repentance, and of promoting their good. But if their good might be as effectually secured and promoted by other means, as is now asserted, then the torments of hell are not inflicted to promote the good of the sufferers. So far as their good is concerned, those torments are needless, nay they are a wanton exercise of cruelty. But as cruelty cannot be ascribed to the only wise God, he must, if this objection be valid, inflict the torments of hell, for some other end, than the final happiness of those who are sent to that world of misery.
Beside ; Dr. C. and other opposers of endless punishment, are no friends to the doctrine of efficacious grace. According to their system, efficacious grace destroys all liberty and moral agency, and reduces men to mere machines. Therefore in their view, to be led to repentance by efficacious grace, is not a greater blessing, than to be led to repentance by the torments of hell; because it is not a greater blessing to be a watch or a windmill than to be a rational moral agent. Nay, according to their system, there is no possibility of leading by efficacious grace any man to a repentance which is of a holy or of a moral nature : because, according to their system, a necessary holiness is no holiness, and a necessary repentance is no more of a moral nature, than the working of a machine.
2. If all who are saved, be delivered from wrath on account of the merit of Christ in any sense, then that punishment, which leads to repentance, is not the curse of the law, or is not all the punishment which justice admits. They who suffer the curse of the law, satisfy the law, and therefore stand in no need of the merit of Christ to satisfy the law or to deliver them from the curse of it. They can no longer consistently with justice be holden under that curse. To hold such persons still under the curse of the law, unless they can obtain an interest in the merit of Christ, can never be reconciled with the moral perfection of God. Yet this is the very fact, if that punishment which leads to repentance be the curse of the law and at the same time, as Dr. C. abundantly holds, salvation in the deliverance from wrath, as well as in the bestowment of positive happiness, be granted to no man, but on account of the merit of Christ.
3. On this hypothesis, our Lord Jesus Christ will not save all men, nor will all men be saved, whether by Christ, or without him.-Deliverance from the curse of the law is essential to salvation. But if the curse of the law be that punishment, which is necessary to lead to